Oregon Road Trip

Old Sep 20th, 2014, 07:45 AM
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Oregon Road Trip

Here's a two-week road trip that my wife and I are taking - our first trip in twenty years without the kids, who are busy with work and college ...

Day 1: DC to Portland to Hood River.

We arrive Portland at 8pm and collect our bags (whew!) and rental car. A big fat moon rises on the way to Hood River illuminating peaks we haven't seen yet. We arrive at Columbia Gorge Hotel too late for dinner, but in time to find three musicians (banjo, guitar, bass) setting up to jam in the lounge - guests traveling to the rodeo on Pendleton tomorrow. I pull out my harmonicas (which I'm now glad I packed) and the four of us play for an hour or so -- Jimmy Buffett, Eagles, Hank Williams, etc. The bar stays open and the pinot noir flows freely - we end up missing dinner, but not really ...

Day 2: Hood River

It's sunny here in Oregon. Morning is a rafting trip down the White Salmon River. This is a small, glacier-fed river that runs at about 40 degrees year-round, so we've got wet suits on. "You WILL fall out" says the river guide ... "not if I can help it" says I, and we both stay in the boat. The water is a beautiful bluish-gray from the glacier silt, and the two-hour-plus trip is one set of rapids after the other capped by the twelve-foot drop at Husum Falls.

Having survived the rafting trip it is time for a shower and a beer (or three). We lunch at Full Sail Brewing Co. in Hood River (tasty ales!) and then it's off for a drive along the "Fruit Loop" - a forty-mile trail through orchards, wineries, etc. on the way to Mount Hood. The mountain rises in the background as we drive - our destination is Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, a craft-brewery that uses wild yeasts to make beers found only in nature. After sampling as many of these as is not totally imprudent, it's back to Hood River for a nap and then ... another brewpub (Double Mountain) for dinner. So many beers, so little time. We're defeated by the delicious wood-fired pizza and end up bringing half of it home for breakfast.
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 07:57 AM
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Day 2: Hood River to Pendleton and back

Another sunny day.

Today it's the Round-Up in Pendleton, about 150 miles each way. This is the 105th year they've staged this event, which features Native American crafts and pageantry and a major rodeo in a stadium built for that purpose. My wife's got her cowboy boots on, but I'm playing the city slicker in a ballcap (go Nats!) ... we make good time on the deserted highway that straddles the Columbia and then continues east through the desert.

We enjoy a pork loin sandwich and a chorizo from a Basque food vendor at the rodeo (no beers today!) and watch from the second row as cowboys ride bucking broncos and Brahma bulls, rope calves and wrestle steers, and vice versa. The Native American portion of the rodeo is fascinating - apparently they have played a central role in the event since its inception, a point of pride for the festival. We leave with a turquoise bracelet that makes my wife's wrist a little heavier and my wallet much lighter, but it's a beautiful piece that shines in the sun which continues to shine.

After the rodeo it's back to Hood River for a steak dinner at the Mesquitery which, for the second night in a row, is too big to finish ... The phrase "Oregon portions" enters our lexicon.
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 09:12 AM
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Day 3: Hood River to Mount Hood

Time to leave the Columbia Gorge Hotel ... what a beautiful place, with a 200-foot waterfall right on the grounds, the first of many we'll visit today. Our room overlooking the river was a romantic place to begin our trip (glad I asked about the view when I booked the room).

(Another Hood River shout-out - "Chocolate Lab," an artisanal chocolate shop whose wares, according to my wife, rival the best that Paris has to offer).

So now it's back into the Columbia Gorge via historic Route 30 for a visit to Multnomah Falls and several other waterfalls that drop to the river in this area. But first it's a visit to the Bonneville Dam to see the fish ladder ... What is it about fish swimming hundreds of miles upstream to spawn and die? Seems like there's something noble in the struggle, but they're fish and it's what they do ...

The falls are spectacular, as is Vista House, hundreds of feet above the gorge, where we can see kiteboarders like waterbugs on the river far below. The wind rises to around 80 miles an hour at this locale, sending us scurrying back to the vehicle. At a nearby farmstand we eat crisp apples and ripe pears, and the proprietor tells us that hurricane-force winds down the gorge are a way of life in Corbett, Oregon.

We head up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, situated at 6000 feet where the trees stop and the bare mountain begins. There's no view from our room this time (guess I should have asked ...) and it's kind of hot, but fortunately we can cool off in the pool just outside, with a view of the mountain towering above. As we float, we discuss what we should bring home from our trip to surprise the kids (maybe matching tattoos? they're pretty ubiquitous here) ... After a hike of a mile or so, it's dinner in the restaurant (fish for her, lamb for me, washed down with a bottle of Oregon Viognier).

And did I forget to mention ... sunny all day.
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 09:18 AM
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sounds awesome so far
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 09:21 AM
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Day 4: Mt. Hood to Bend

More sun. An early morning hike, a refreshing dip, and it's in the car to Bend, a high-desert town/city on the eastern side of the Cascades. We arrive a lunchtime for a brew and burger at the Deschutes Brewpub downtown, where the Black Butte Porter takes the prize as the best beer of the trip so far.

Then to the High Desert Museum where we explore the history of the area(natural and human). We're at the otter tank to watch the animals being fed when my wife looks up and sees ... two of our oldest and dearest friends from DC, coincidentally vacationing in the same spot at the same time (funny we didn't know they'd be here, as his office is next to mine at work) ... and as it happens, we're staying at the same hotel, which is ...

The Lara House Inn, a bed-and-breakfast establishment located just across from Drake Park, a lovely green space that is a short walk to the shopping and restaurants downtown. The rooms are beautiful and the hotel offers beer and wine on the deck at 5:00 p.m., which stretches into the evening until it's time for dinner (at Zydeco, a Louisiana-themed restaurant where the portions are, again, enormous).

Apparently lots of people retire to Bend, which we hear has 300 days of sun each year ... though retirement is a few years out for us, we spend a little time window-shopping in the realty offices downtown on the way back from dinner, the germ of an idea firmly planted.
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 09:25 AM
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Thanks for starting this report while you are still on the trip.
Are you planning on coming to Bend and perhaps Crater Lake NP?
Bend (and Sisters) have many breweries, some new and some quite old. The newest in Bend that I am aware of is the Worthy which is along US 20 on the east end of town just east of 27th St.
The north entrance of Crater Lake is still open off Rt. 138.
We've had many nights below freezing but no snow yet even up at Crater Lake.
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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Day 5: Exploring Bend

Did I mention it is sunny here in Oregon? Not just the weather but the people too.

Today we rent bicycles and explore the parks along the Deschutes River in town ... the municipal spaces are among the prettiest and best-maintained anywhere we have been, flowers and grass and delightful places to stop and relax at every turn. A dam downstream creates a placid stretch of river suitable for kayaking or paddle-boarding (we saw people paddling with a dog on the front of the board). We had planned to go kayaking in the afternoon but a tipster advised ...

To go hiking at Todd Lake a few miles east of town, just past Mount Bachelor. And that's what we did, and boy were we glad about it. This is a small alpine lake with meadows and woods around it and a to-die-for view of Mount Bachelor as a reward for walking to the far side. We agreed that among many beautiful spots we have seen thus far, this was the prettiest.

And so we celebrated back in Bend at 10 Barrels Brewing Co., with an enormous sampler of beers and some spicy Sriracha-Lime chicken wings. Another great brew as their "Fresh Hop" ale, which features freshly-cut Umpqua Valley hops to create a beer redolent of a new-mown lawn on a summer day.

After some down time at the hotel, it's off to dinner in Bend at Wild Rose, a northern Thai restaurant that rivals in spice and flavor some of the best available to us in our major metro area back east. And a beer at Bend Brewing Co. for dessert ... We know we've left some good brews untapped here in Bend, but imagine we will be back ...
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Old Sep 20th, 2014, 10:30 PM
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Day 6: Bend to Crater Lake

Sandy feeds us an excellent breakfast at Lara House Inn and we're off to Crater Lake. We arrive to find the boat tours are still being offered and immediately sign up, then hightail it to the trailhead for the 1.1 mile hike to the bottom. We are rewarded by close-up views of the clearest, bluest water on the planet plus perspectives on the volcanic caldera that can't be had from the rim. What a spectacular place -- neither words nor pictures do it justice, you just have to see it.

Dinner at the Crater Lake Lodge is delicious, our room functional but without a view of the lake (guess I should have asked about that ...).
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Old Sep 21st, 2014, 07:32 AM
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Day 7: Crater Lake to Ashland

A two-mile hike along the rim yields some amazing early-morning pictures of Wizard Island and Llao Rock, and then it's in the car for a hair-raising drive down into Ashland.

We're staying in a suite at the Peerless Hotel, a meticulously restored inn by the railroad - easily the nicest rooms of the trip. An afternoon of gallery-hopping (the town if full of them) gives way to dinner at the Peerless, which features about a half-dozen excellent small plates to share. Then it's off to "The Comedy of Errors" at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival (funny!) and a nightcap at the Caldera Tap House, where we're given the bum's rush just before the 10:00 p.m. closing time (boo!).
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Old Sep 21st, 2014, 08:46 AM
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Day 8: Ashland

Another day of sunshine.

A rafting trip on the Upper Klamath River with Momentum River Adventures brings white-water thrills and much wildlife viewing -- osprey, white pelicans, river otters, hawks, falcons, eagles, turtles, and more. A five-star experience.

Dinner at Standing Stone Brewpub with some of the best beer and food of the trip, including fresh shishio peppers and a killer corn chowder, and tasty burgers, all washed down by a coffee stout and double IPA.

Theater under the stars (Richard III) and a nightcap back at Standing Stone Brewpub (actually, dessert - a stout float).
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Old Sep 21st, 2014, 05:07 PM
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Day 9: Ashland to Gold Beach

Still sunny. We broke up this day-in-transit with a pilgrimage to the Rogue Creamery just north of Medford, where we stocked up on cheese, bread and crackers (my favorite = Rogue Smokey Blue) and headed into wine country.

We found Red Lily Winery west of Jacksonville, which had been recommended on our rafting trip ... a beautiful place for lunch on the patio, washed down with excellent Rose' and Tempranillo wines. Wish we could have drunk more but there were still miles to cover, so we moved on, down the mountains into California (briefly) where the sky darkened (briefly) until we passed back into Oregon.

Dinner at the Tu Tu Tun lodge, a lovely inn just north of Gold Beach on the Rogue River ... a feast with coriander-spiced salmon as the centerpiece. Before retiring, we make reservations for dinner here tomorrow.
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Old Sep 21st, 2014, 09:29 PM
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Did you see the smoke inside the caldera in Crater Lake? I went by there this morning on 138 on the way to Roseburg & beyond.
If you continue north on US 101 be sure to stop for some more cheese at the Tillamook cheese factory (north of town).
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Old Sep 22nd, 2014, 09:34 AM
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Glad you enjoyed your time here It has been our hottest summer on record. Yes, Corbett is windy year round. In the winter it can be brutal though with the cold air tunneling down the gorge. So be glad you were here when you were

You lucked out with the boat rides too. Those usually end by mid September, but with the great weather it has been a bit later. They do a great job with those, IMO.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2014, 06:55 PM
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Days 10, 11, 12: Gold Beach to Newport to Portland

It's been a great trip ... we thoroughly enjoyed Tu Tu Tun Lodge (jet boat ride on the Rogue, paddleboarding, great food & company) and then a drive up the coast to Newport and then Portland, with a stop at the Bitter Monk taproom in McMinnville and then Sokol Brosser Winery to celebrate a wifely birthday. Next it's a day in Portland and a flight home. And ... finally had some rain.

For those who commented - we did see the smoke in the caldera and we know how lucky to get a shot at the Crater Lake boat tour this late in the season. We'll have to catch the cheese at Tillamook the next time around - which most assuredly there will be. Oregon's a charm. Ciao, all.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2014, 08:00 PM
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Glad you enjoyed our beautiful state!
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