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Trip Report Two Great Mountains, One Great City, and the Oregon Coast - Trip Report

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Just returned from a wonderful, unhurried scenic trip through some of the Northwest's most spectacular country. We took 10 days (9 nights) to do this, and if one wanted to add Seattle and some extra time in Olympic NP (I live near there so did not spend much time there on this trip) it would make an ideal two week adventure.

Day 1 - Left my home on the Olympic Peninsula and traveled across the Tacoma Narrows bridge and to the east side of Mount Rainier via Highways 410 and 123. Weather was spectacular, and we did a little hiking at Sunrise before continuing on to Paradise, where we took another little hike and spent time at the new(ish) visitor center. Spent the night at Seasons Motel in Morton, WA: nothing much there, but the motel was fine and it was strategically located for Mt. St. Helens the next day.

Day 2 - Took Spirit Lake Highway to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. Weather was overcast, so we were thrilled when we broke out of the fog to an amazing view of the volcano. Johnston Ridge Observatory, poised on the site 5 and 1/2 miles from the crater where a young scientist lost his life on May 18, 1980, was wonderfully interactive and showed a great film about the eruption. At the end of the film, a huge red curtain rises to reveal windows looking out on the mountain -- absolutely awesome. Ranger-led talks were interesting too.

Left the mountain and headed for Portland. Arrived at our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott, at about 4 pm. Booked this hotel through the Travel Portland website; the rate was reasonable and included breakfast (in the hotel's attached restaurant) and valet parking. Excellent location within walking distance of everything. We ate at the hotel restaurant and spent the rest of the evening at Powell's Books, just a couple of blocks away. I have probably been to Portland a dozen times or more, but Powell's never fails to allow new discoveries. This time we discovered the antique book room, which has books for sale dating back to the 16th century.

Day 3 - Took a guided "Portland Walk" and despite my frequent visits to Portland I learned a lot. Our guide, Jared, was a lot of fun and full of information. We visited the Park blocks, Pioneer Square, the world's smallest park (embedded in Naito Parkway), Portlandia, and lots of other downtown sites. At Jared's suggestion, we went to the top of the Federal Court Building for great views of the city. After that, we visited the Oregon History Museum; very nice exhibits and we spent a couple of hours there. Dinner was yummy shepherd's pie at Kell's Irish Pub, where dollar bills magically stick to the ceiling. Then a short walk to join the crowd at Voodoo Donuts for dessert!

Day 4 - Public transportation day. Took a bus from our hotel to PGE Park, then another bus to Washington Park to view the Rose Garden. Another beautiful day. Roses were impressive, and the adjacent Japanese Garden was even more impressive -- very tranquil and lovely. You can't take a bad picture there! Took the park shuttle bus to the Zoo metro stop, were we caught the Max light rail back downtown. A good lunch at Jake's Grill; then we crossed the street to take the streetcar through the Pearl and Nob Hill Districts. Stopped to shop along 23rd Street, then on to Trader Joe's for our favorite sweet stuff. Back to the hotel for a rest, then down the street to the movie theater across from the Heathman Hotel to see "Inception". Puzzling but good.

Day 5 - Left Portland at a leisurely 10:30 (one great thing about this trip is that we never had to set the alarm; yet there seemed to be time for everything!). We took 99W instead of 5 to head south; it was a nice drive but not as rural as it used to be. Arrived at the coast at Florence at about 3 PM; our hotel, the River House Inn, was well-located and allowed an easy walk to visit the shops in quaint Old Town Florence. Had a good seafood dinner at Mo's followed by saltwater taffy for dessert!

Day 6 - We had prebooked a half-hour sandrail ride at "Sandland Adventures" south of Florence. This was a lot of fun; sort of like an extended roller-coaster ride, and we were shaking sand out of our shoes for a couple of days afterward. Afterward we visited Honeyman State Park, the site of family camping trips years ago, and still beautiful.

Yesterday, when we left Portland, the mercury there was supposed to climb into the 90's, so we had congratulated ourselves that we were heading to the coast where the weather would be cool and beautiful. Well, we were half-right --- the weather was cool, but quite foggy the entire time we were on the coast; only clearing off at about 5 or 6 pm. This hampered some of my photography efforts, but I was still able to get some good atmospheric shots from most viewpoints. Today we headed north with stops at Cape Perpetua, and both Yaquina Bay and Yaquina Head lighthouses. Yaquina Bay offered tours of the attached lightkeeper's home, and Yaquina Head allowed us to climb more than 100 winding metal stairs to view the working light. Very impressive visitor's center, as well, at Yaquina Head, but the wind was whipping up to about 40 mph in the area so we unfortunately didn't spend a lot of time walking around outside.

On to Lincoln City, where we had a reservation at the Best Western Landmark south of town. Went to the grocery store and picnicked in our room for dinner this evening!

Day 7 - Another gray day. From Pacific City, we drove the Three Capes loop, stopping at various overlooks and at the Cape Meares lighthouse. Next to the Tillamook Cheese Factory -- which was mobbed! Tillamook is close enough to Portland that many folks had evidently headed out to escape the heat on this Sunday afternoon. We watched the huge blocks of cheese coming off the assembly line, and sampled some cheese as well, but the lines were too long to sample any ice cream.

Next we drove past our overnight destination in Seaside to visit Lewis and Clark's Fort Clatsop near Astoria. Very nice visitor's center, and we hiked down to the expedition landing point along the river. Fort Clatsop is a re-creation of the original -- actually the second re-creation since the first burned to the ground about 5 years ago. Lots of entertaining docents in authentic costumes explained the dismal winter that Lewis and Clark spent there more than 200 years ago.

Back to Seaside to check in at the Holiday Inn Express. Very nice hotel overlooking the river. We had intended to stay in Cannon Beach but every place we tried there required a three night minimum stay, and we only had planned for two. Seaside was alright, though, from our hotel we could walk down Broadway past the touristy little shops and bumper car rides and out to the Promenade. Dinner this evening was at an OK place recommended by the hotel, called Pudgy's.

Day 8 - Started the day with a good breakfast (included) of omelets and bacon and coffee cake. Drove the short distance back to Cannon Beach and arrived just as the shops were opening around 10 am. This was also early enough that we were able to find a great parking spot on Hemlock, the main shopping street. We wandered through the town, in and out of the great little shops, and had good pizza for lunch at Pizza a Fetta. From the south end of town, we went out to the beach and walked back to the north end of town where our car was parked, then drove to the Tolovana area to get better views of Haystack Rock. Next stop was Ecola State Park -- the clouds were finally clearing and we had lovely views from the viewpoint and from Indian Beach.

Back to the hotel to relax, and then (on the recommendation of some Fodor's folks) we drove a couple of miles to Gearhart where we had wonderful dinners and desserts at the Pacific Way Cafe and Bakery. I really recommend this place -- especially the desserts. My chocolate mousse cake with home-made vanilla bean ice cream was awesome! Then back to the hotel for a satisfying dip in the spa.

Day 9 - Another good breakfast at Holiday Inn Express; then northward once more. Our first stop was the Columbia Maritime Museum in Astoria. This is a great museum; very worthwhile; dedicated to the Columbia River and all the rescues that have taken place at the bar -- the "Graveyard of the Pacific". We had expected to spend about an hour and a half there; but wound up staying there for three hours; which made this our longest day of the trip. Worth it, though.

Leaving Astoria across the big bridge, we stopped in Ilwaco, WA, to hike to the Cape Disappointment light...quite a steep hike, and the views were enshrouded in fog when we got there. Up 101 through the sad towns of Aberdeen and Hoquiam, then a pleasant detour to the Maple Glade rainforest on the north side of Lake Quinault: very nice nature trail there, and much more accessible than the larger Hoh rain forest. One more stop at foggy Ruby Beach; then on to Forks where we had a reservation at the Forks Motel -- adequate but very overpriced; apparently the entire town is taking good advantage of the "Twilight" craze.

Day 10 - I hasten to add that we are NOT Twilight fans; however some young relatives are so after a good breakfast at Forks Coffee Shop we took ourselves to the "Dazzled by Twilight" store in the center of town. The shop is much bigger than I'd imagined it to be, and absolutely crammed with every "Twilight" and vampire-themed novelty that one could ever imagine. We were completely amused.

Next we left the vampires behind and drove to Lake Crescent Lodge, where we picnicked on the lakeshore. The sun was out at last, and the lake was beautiful as always.

Our final stop of the trip was at Hurricane Ridge, which is about an hour and a half from my home. A short hike to take in the expansive views, and then happily home after a practically perfect trip!

Odds and ends: our annual National Park pass, purchased last year on a cross-country trip, was a real cost-saver on this journey. My pictures are here: http://picasaweb.google.com/azzureterri/CoastPortland#

Enjoy!!

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