Silver Falls State Park

On Saturday, June 22nd of 2019, we got a late start leaving our hotel in Portland, Oregon. It was almost 8 AM when we began our trip South. Our sole destination for the day was The Trail of Ten Falls located in Silver Falls State Park.

Upon arrival before 10 AM, we were disappointed to find that our trek would be limited due to no dogs being allowed on a substantial portion of the trails that make up the larger hiking trail. Nonplussed, we started off just the same, intent on enjoying what we could, of the magnificent surroundings. Photos from the early section of trail are above.

It wasn’t until we reached a certain point in our hike that I determined I would separate from the others and explore another section of the trail while they continued along the dog-friendly portion until we could meet up at the far end.

It was a strange thing, to be hiking by myself for more than an hour, stopping at various places to capture some of the lush and verdant beauty with my camera.

Naturally, North Falls was the most spectacular sight to be seen on this section of the trail, the large path circling behind the cascading water producing a breathtaking barrage of sight and sound. Photos from my solo portion of the hike are below.

Upon meeting with the others in the parking area beyond North Falls, I remained with our dog so that they could head back the way I’d come in order to at least witness that spectacular waterfall for themselves.

When they returned, we continued our trek to Upper North Falls, another section of the trail that was dog-friendly.

The hike to Upper North Falls (pictured above) was not a particularly long journey from the North Falls parking area, and it makes for quite the terrific place to rest and relax, taking in the soothing sound of water battering the stone.

The return trip to the beginning of the trail was a long one and I ultimately went a significant portion of that hike alone as well. Dog and fellow adventurers, worn out from the hours spent on the trail, remained at a resting spot near the Silver Falls Highway while I returned to the car and came back to retrieve them.

It was after 3 PM when we returned to Portland, and we determined it was a good idea to relax the rest of the day, knowing that we would be departing from Portland and heading Northwest to Port Angeles, Washington the following morning.

Those intimately familiar with obscure slasher flicks of the 1980s might recognize some of these locations from the 1981 movie Just Before Dawn, significant portions of that B-Movie extravaganza having been filmed in Silver Falls State Park.

Oregon Coast Day Two

It was shortly before 7 AM on Friday, June 21st of 2019, when we got started with our day. Leaving our hotel, we headed to North Portland, Oregon and arrived at Cathedral Park only a short while after 7.

We spent a little over half an hour enjoying a walk through the park and admiring the outdoor cathedral appearance of the gothic arches supporting the St. John’s Bridge as it traverses the Willamette River. A couple of homeless men with bicycles and small trailers to be towed behind said bikes congregated beneath one of the arches and, if I’d had the presence of mind, I would have liked to capture some images of them where they rested at the base of those columns. I’m not sure that they would have been amenable to being photographed, but I really should have asked.

Photos from Cathedral Park are above.

From there, we headed South on Interstate 5, traveling down to the exit for Corvallis before making our way West. Arriving in Newport, we continued South along Highway 101 until we arrived at our first destination of the day, Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve.

Making my way over the rocky shoreline at the end of the Thor’s Well trail was made far more challenging by my efforts to avoid the crunching sound of assorted bivalves clinging to the exposed surface of the stone due to the low tide. Countless tidepools spotted low points in the rough stone and the views all around were magnificent. I would have liked to be there near high tide so as to capture the fountain effects of Thor’s Well and Spouting Horn–as well as the appearance of the area once it was largely submerged–but we had other places on our itinerary for the day.

Photos of the coast near Thor’s Well are included above

We headed back North along the Oregon Coast Highway, returning to Newport. Our next stop was for lunch. A little while before 1 PM, we arrived at Asiatico Waterfront Fusion Sushi. We opted to dine outdoors on the pier overlooking the Yaquina Bay. The food was superb, the service was no less so, and we had the pleasure of seeing some harbor seals poking their heads curiously out of the water to peek at us while we ate.

After our lunch, we made our way to the other side of the bay and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

It wasn’t until close to 4 PM when we finally arrived at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Our first stop there was somewhere we’d fallen in love with during our previous visit to the area in 2017.

Cobble Beach (as seen in the photos above) is difficult to describe. It’s as much an auditory experience as a visual one. It’s not just the sound of the waves coming and going that does it, but rather the way the smoothly rounded stones of the shore roll over each other as the water from each wave recedes. Sitting or standing there in silence, you’re soothed by a strangely-pitched rumbling sound of rock against rock, as if being inside of a giant tumbling machine. This beach is somewhere I could spend hours without noticing the passage of time. As it stands, we did spend close to an hour right there.

Heading back up the cliffside, the lighthouse at Yaquina Head and the views from there are stunning. The sounds of waves compete with the cacophony of nesting seabirds to produce a peculiar, natural symphony.

Photos of the Yaquina Head lighthouse are below.

Perhaps the most worthwhile thing about our visit was the sheer amount of wildlife we got to witness. It wasn’t just the birds nesting on the rocky promontories all around. There were easily a dozen harbor seals playing in the surf, sunning themselves on the lower rocks, and even one mother nursing a pup…as you’ll see in the photos below.

We continued North along the highway and arrived at Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area at 5:30 PM. I’d been here previously, in both 2014 and 2017, and it never disappoints. The landscape and features of this section of the Oregon coast are always so lovely, and the wide, unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean are exceptional. Photos from that stop are below.

Continuing North, our final stop for the day was the Tillamook Creamery just after 7 PM. When we’d been there in June of 2017, the facility had been undergoing major renovations, though we’d still been able to enjoy a surprisingly great dinner there at that time.

Upgrades complete, the creamery was even better. A full dining area awaited us inside and the food was perhaps even better than it had been during our visit two years before. After dinner, we treated ourselves to ice cream at the separate ice cream bar. The abundance of flavors made picking anything an almost painful experience, especially knowing just how good any of those flavors were likely to be. None of us had anything to complain about, unless it was that we couldn’t try all of the flavors available.

We enjoyed a self-guided tour of the building, complete with samples of various cheeses on sale…but it was getting late and we had the long drive back to Portland still ahead of us.

Full stomachs and full hearts from a day of beautiful scenery and fun, we began the drive East, taking the Wilson River Highway through the Tillamook State Forest. The surrounding scenery was no less lovely than it had been when we’d taken this same drive two years before and the daylight remained with us until we’d reached Highway 26. The angle of the light as the sun approached the end of its apparent arc through the sky deepened the forest shadows and made it feel like we were surrounded by an endless sea of diverse shades of green.

It was after 10 PM when we returned to our hotel and settled in for the night.

Wandering Portland

Thursday, June 20th of 2019, was spent entirely in Portland, Oregon. It was time to take a break from long drives for a day. We’d traveled 474 miles on Wednesday, 324 miles on Tuesday, 241 miles on Monday, and a whopping 713 miles on Sunday. Of course, that was combined driving and walking, but only a small portion of that was spent walking…I was, as you can imagine, ready to spend a bit less time behind the wheel.

Besides, we had a great way to get the day started and a surprise for my daughter that evening.

Our first stop was The Waffle Window in Northeast Portland (that location no longer appears to be open). At 8:30 AM, nothing could have hit the spot quite the way that waffle did, the one I’d purchased no longer appears to be on the menu at the current Waffle Window locations, but it included strawberry and a cream made using rose hips. I believe it was the Rose City waffle, which may be available only at certain times of year. It was amazing.

After an excellent breakfast, we headed West toward Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. We had a schedule to keep.

I’d spent a few hundred dollars a couple of months before, in preparation for this vacation, to experience something we simply had to experience for ourselves.

We received more than my money’s worth with the sea otter experience at the Oregon Zoo. I’d known we would be able to spend time behind the scenes, seeing the otters in their enclosure rather than through the usual viewing location. We got to watch as Lincoln was given treats and samples were taken from him. I expected that to be about as close as we’d get. Instead, we were given the chance to hand-feed Juno and Sushi for approximately ten to fifteen minutes. We were provided with a bucket filled with diced up bits of fish and other assorted sea life, and we were allowed to spoil them rotten. Photos of the otter experience are above.

After spending a rather long interval at the zoo, we returned to the hotel until a little after 5 PM.

We headed toward downtown Portland and parked in the Chinatown area.

Our next stop was the Lan Su Chinese Garden. A special event was soon to be taking place, and our time was limited, so the hostess offered us discounted passes to enjoy the lovely garden. While I would have loved to spend more time there, especially as the sun approached the horizon, it was incredibly considerate of the hostess to offer us the concession she did. The garden isn’t a large place, but it feels much larger when you’re inside.

You can almost imagine you’re somewhere far away from where you actually are, until you catch glimpses of the towering skyscrapers beyond the walls of the garden itself. Photos of the Lan Su Chinese Garden are below.

From there, we remained on foot. It was time to visit my favorite location in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books. It was 6:30PM when we arrived and we didn’t leave there until after 8 PM. There are few stores where I can lose track of time as effectively as within the mighty shelves of Powell’s. As one might reasonably suspect, I spent altogether too much money during that visit…we all did.

We had time to return to the Impala, where we deposited our purchases, before we made our way to the next destination.

From roughly 8:30 until 10:30 PM, we joined up with Portland Walking Tours for their late night ghost hunting experience. Naturally, there were no ghosts, but there was a lot of local history (mingled with a fair bit of mythology, I’m sure) and a fun experience to be had.

The first hour and a half of the tour involved wandering through a substantial chunk of downtown Portland. It was thoroughly enjoyable, less because I believe in ghosts than for the enthusiasm of the tour guide in his detailed assortment of tales and trivia items.

We returned to the starting point of the walking tour and made our way into the basement of the building, with only flashlights to provide us with illumination. Connecting, as it supposedly did, to the old tunnels beneath the city, there were tales aplenty that accompanied our descent into the dark underground. Of course, we did not summon a ghost nor did we witness any sort of evidence that there might be a ghost down there, but the atmosphere was quite excellent.

It was almost Midnight when we finally settled in at our hotel, after ordering takeout from a reasonably nice diner located near PDX and the Columbia River, Shari’s Cafe and Pies.

The Painted Hills and Columbia River Gorge

It was shortly after 7:30 AM on Wednesday, June 19th of 2019, when we began our journey Southeast from Portland, OR. The drive toward central Oregon is beautiful in a wholly different way from the beauty of the region West of the Cascades. You emerge from the Cascade mountain range and arrive at a wide, flat plain as you follow the path of Highway 26. Gazing toward the horizon, you can see the most prominent snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Mountains stretching along their North/South axis.

A relatively short while later, you pass through a smaller set of mountains and hills, quite reminiscent of the Black Hills here in South Dakota, as you’re cutting along the Western edge of the Ochoco National Forest. From there, our destination isn’t far.

Shortly before Mitchell, OR we take a left on Bridge Creek Road. We’d previously visited the Painted Hills in 2017, and we wanted to spend a more substantial interval there this time.

Located in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, the Painted Hills are relatively similar to certain features of Badlands National Park.

Our first stop is the Painted Cove Trail, a leisurely boardwalk trail circling through and around a series of beautiful, red tinted mounds. This only takes about fifteen to twenty minutes to enjoy, but slowing down to take in the scenery is a must.

From there it’s only a short drive to reach the Red Hill Trail, nestled further into the park area. The hike to a viewpoint overlooking the region is a gravel and dirt path that doesn’t suffer from poor maintenance.

Photos are both above and below.

Before leaving the Painted Hills, we stopped at the Painted Hills Overlook we’d enjoyed a great deal during our previous visit. The day was sunny and it gets hot in the high elevation desert environment, so our visit was cut short just after 12:30 PM. Photos of that stop are below.

Returning to Highway 26, we continued East, finally cutting North in Mitchell, OR to take the Service Creek-Mitchell Highway North. Reaching Fossil, OR, we took Highway 218 West to the ghost town of Shaniko, OR. The drive, taking approximately two and a half hours, is a fantastic one. The roadways curve up and down hillsides and mountains, providing lovely views of high-elevation valleys and farmland. If we’d not had other places to go, I’d have loved to spend more time there, stopping for photos on an annoyingly consistent basis.

Arriving in Shaniko, we took advantage of an ice cream parlor serving the people who come to see the ghost town. Goldie’s Ice Cream Parlor had a decent variety of flavors and the folks operating the establishment were pleasant and friendly.

Walking the streets of Shaniko isn’t a time consuming endeavor, and it was only twenty minutes or so before we were back on the road.

Photos of Shaniko are below.

We took Highway 97 North to Biggs Junction, OR where we joined Interstate 84 and headed West along the Columbia River.

Arriving in Hood River, OR around 5 PM, we stopped for dinner at Solstice Wood Fire Pizza. I can’t say enough about the quality of the food and the overall environment of that restaurant. The patio area provides a nice view of the Columbia River as well. I wanted to try something different and ordered the siragusa pear pizza, a pizza with pears (as the name would imply), bleu cheese, and caramelized onions…it was amazing.

Leaving Hood River, our next stop was the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. There’s an artificial pond on site for white sturgeon, complete with an underwater viewing window. I’ve submerged one of my GoPro cameras in that pond each time we’ve visited, and captured some excellent video of the two sturgeon swimming. There are also smaller ponds where one can feed trout.

Continuing toward Portland, we stopped at both Horsetail Falls and Multnomah Falls between 7:45 and 8:30 PM.

Naturally, we had to make the climb up to the upper terrace of Multnomah Falls, as the view is always so spectacular. This late in the evening, the crowds weren’t as dense as they often had been before.

Our final stop on the way back to Portland was Vista House, which seemed like a magnificent place to witness the sunset. We were not disappointed. The views overlooking the Columbia River from that location are spectacular. I may have had to drop down from a fenced area to get to a certain location or two, but it was worth the minor bit of trespassing to see some of what I was able to see.

We continued along the Historic Columbia River Highway after dark, unable to truly enjoy the scenery, returning to our hotel shortly before 10:30 PM.

Second Leg of the Journey

We left Helena, MT shortly after 7 AM on Sunday, June 16th of 2019. Our route took us West to meet Interstate 90 at the Garrison exit. The last time we’d taken this path out of Helena, in June of 2017, we’d narrowly avoided colliding with a doe as she’d ventured onto the highway from thick shrub growth on the right side of the road. This time, thankfully, there were no near misses.

We remained on I-90 for only a short while, taking the exit at Drummond as that was the recommendation of my GPS. I should have learned not to trust the GPS after a particularly awful set of directions in August of 2016, but shame on me because I was fooled twice. We started out on a simple frontage road running parallel with the interstate before connecting with a meandering gravel road. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but I’d taken my 2001 Chevy Impala down worse roads, for sure.

What initially appeared to be a rough patch of road, perhaps still rutted after late winter in the higher elevations, soon became only a taste of what was to come. If I’d been driving a Jeep, I’d have avoided this road if given the opportunity to do so. It kept getting worse rather than better, large stones protruding from the road’s surface (if one could really call it a road) at random points while giant ruts carved miniature ravines through the hard-packed dirt that made up the islands of discernible road.

Unfortunately, there was no choice but to continue forward. Attempting to reverse down the trail would have certainly led to disaster, while powering through the god awful, stressful ordeal was at least potentially going to lead us to a happy outcome.

The road cleared up just as we approached our destination. Garnet, a ghost town maintained by the Department of the Interior, was just ahead. We’d made it…and without tearing anything from the undercarriage of my car.

To add insult to injury, there was a much nicer, well-maintained gravel road up there as well. There had been a far less treacherous path to this destination. We could have avoided the hazards associated with taking my car up something barely suitable for four-wheel drive. Damn the GPS.

We remained there in Garnet for about an hour and a half, not departing until around 11 AM. Photos from our time in Garnet are featured above.

The route we followed leaving Garnet and making our way to Missoula, where we rejoined Interstate 90 was far less stressful than the one we’d experienced only a couple of hours earlier. Along the way, there was a fantastic view and a great place to stop and take it all in. I’ve included photos of that vista below.

Crossing the rest of the distance through Montana and the upper panhandle of Idaho, we entered Washington. At the recommendation from my cousin, Jeremy, we stopped at Viking Drive-Inn. This is a modest diner located Southwest of Spokane, in a small town known as Sprague. The burgers, while simple, were deliciously seasoned and precisely what we were hungry for at just after 2 PM.

We continued following I-90 until we reached Ritzville, WA, where we headed South, making our way to Palouse Falls State Park. We’d seen photos of the magnificent falls, but we’d never seen it in person. It did not disappoint.

Photos of Palouse Falls follow.

We left Palouse Falls at approximately 4:30 PM before continuing Southwest through Kennewick before crossing the border into Oregon. We connected with Interstate 84 and continued on to Portland, OR. We arrived at our hotel shortly before 9 PM.

Having built up an appetite again, we went to the nearest MOD Pizza. We’d fallen in love with that design-your-own pizza chain when we’d been in Seattle in June of 2017. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at a particularly seedy 7-Eleven, in what appeared to be a fairly run down area of Portland. Regardless of that, we continued returning to this same 7-Eleven during our week-long stay in Portland because they happened to have green apple Jones Soda in their fountain soda machine. It tastes even better as a fountain soda than in the bottles.

We settled back in at the hotel just before 10 PM.