Tag Archives: United States

Off to Portland!

We love waterfalls but evidently so does everybody else! The route we expected to follow into Portland was along old Hwy 30 where we could stop and admire the dozens of waterfalls along the way. Unfortunately, we don’t have a very high tolerance for crowds, packed highways and traffic backed up for miles waiting for a handful of openings at the overcrowded parking lots next to the more popular falls. So we didn’t make it to all of the falls that we wanted to see. We’ll leave that for another trip. We did stop at Wahkeena Falls, the most popular of the falls along this route. There is a paved path that takes you to the top of the falls which took us about 45 minutes at a brisk pace. The gradient was very moderate but just enough to get my heart rate up to where I could consider this a light workout, very light. Once at the top we took a few minutes to admire the view and gaze down at the crowds below then snap a few photos and make our way back down.

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View from top of Wahkeena Falls
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Horsetail Falls

We stopped at Horsetail Falls and then pulled over to make ourselves a light lunch before continuing to Portland. This would be our first time to Portland and we were looking forward to eating out at some very good restaurants. We met a couple from Portland during our stay in Hood River and they gave us a list of restaurants that we should try. We were told that the Yelp reviews for Portland were spot on! Finally, I have a shot at picking out some winners! Our first stop was “Por Que No”, a taco stand that is so popular that the line runs down the block. We were early for dinner so we thought we had a shot at getting in with no wait but the line was already down the block. We decided to go for the second place on the list, “Apizza Scholls” which serves pizza in only one size and that’s a large. The pizza was amazing! To me, the secret to a good pizza is all about the crust and a tasty sauce. They hit it out of the park on both of these points! They set the bar for me as far as pizza goes. Darryl is still a die-hard NY Pizza sort of guy so it maybe ranked up in his top 5 pizza places.

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Sausage & Mama pizza (house made sausage plus Mama Lil’s Kick Butt Peppers)

Later that night we walked to Voodoo Donuts. I’m not into donuts but we went just because we heard from friends that Voo Doo Donuts are the best and it’s ranked up there as one of the top 10 places to go when in Portland in many of the travel articles that we read. I can tell you that it’s definitely a popular local spot. We didn’t go until sometime after midnight and there was a line out the door and around the corner! There were some interesting choices like the maple bacon donut, Orangatang donut, and the loop donut which is covered in fruit loops but I wasn’t so venturous sticking to a Kelly’s Jelly Donut which was filled with raspberry jelly. My donut standard is Dunkin’ Donuts and it’s a toss-up between Voo Doo and Dunkin’ Donuts for me. If you love donuts, check them out and don’t let my neutral feelings about the place influence your decision! 🙂

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We spent a day visiting the gardens around Portland’s huge Washington Park. At the Japanese Gardens I was able to catch my one and only glimpse of Mount Hood.

Sand & stone garden (karesansui) which celebrates the "beauty of blank space".
Sand & stone or karesansui garden which celebrates the “beauty of blank space”.
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Mount Hood makes an appearance far off in the distance.
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International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park.

Portland is a city of bridges connecting its NE & NW Portland to its SE & SW districts. There are at least eleven bridges spanning the Willamette River. I loved strolling along the waterfront admiring the variety of bridge designs.

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Hawthorne Bridge which is a truss bridge with a vertical lift built in 1911.

We made it to Powell’s Books which was heaven for me! I love spending time in book stores, leafing through books and becoming overwhelmed with the number of great books that I have yet to discover. I don’t know if I’ll ever get accustomed to the changes in book culture influenced by technology and the advent of digital books. I love to feel the book in my hands and turning the pages as I get lost in a story. Because of the limited room that we have in our vehicle, I have limited the number of hard copy books that I have with me on this trip, grudgingly relying upon the digital format. We did buy an audio book, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. I loved his first book, “The Kite Runner” and I’m looking forward to getting lost in another of his tales.

We spent most of our time walking through the city and enjoying the street life. There were children playing in the fire hydrants, marching bands playing in one of the squares and far too many young people begging on the street.

We gave her a "donation" to take her photo.
We gave her a “donation” to take her photo.

This last one really had us confused. There was an unusually large number of homeless youths sitting on the street corners begging for a few cents or hanging out in groups on the lawns sitting on their sleeping bags passing the day away. I’ve seen the homeless on the streets of San Francisco, throughout the Bay Area and on the streets in my hometown of Davenport, Iowa but never this many in their late teens and early 20’s. I wonder about their stories and worry for their future.

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We had the most spectacular meal at “The Screen Door” restaurant in Northeast Portland. We started out with a spinach & beet salad that could be a meal of its own. For the main course I ordered the amazing crispy fried buttermilk-battered chicken and Darryl had the lowcountry shrimp & grits. My chicken was amazingly moist with the most spectacular crispy coating. Usually the crispy coating is greasy and tastes like fried salty flour but this was tasty, crisp and not oily in the least. No wonder they get the highest ratings for their fried chicken and waffle brunch special! We ended with an amazing blueberry cornbread cobbler. The cobbler didn’t last long enough for a photo. The only downside to this experience is that I don’t believe that I’ll ever have fried chicken this good anyplace else. They set the bar, now I just need to figure out how to prepare the dish for myself!

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Hood River , Oregon

It was a rainy drive to Hood River but that didn’t put a damper on the scenery. Sometimes the rain makes everything more dramatic with the stormy clouds and grey textures added to the vast landscapes we are driving through.

We arrived sometime after 9 in the evening and we were ready for some dinner. It’s been hit or miss with the restaurants that we pick even with the help of Yelp or TripAdvisor. We still haven’t figured out the magic formula to identifying a decent restaurant. Sometimes the highly rated restaurants are good and sometimes they’re not, sometimes the “fancy” looking restaurants are good and sometimes they’re not, sometimes the pricey restaurants are good and, well, you get the picture. This night we picked a good one! We’re always excited to find great food at a reasonable cost that’s prepared well and is scrumdilliicious. Solstice Wood Fire Pizza did not disappoint. For the record, this had high yelp reviews, a comfortable atmosphere and great views on the water and and we didn’t break the bank to pay the bill.

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Grilled shrimp on a bed of tabouli and sashimi grade tuna with tzatziki sauce

The rained continued through most of our time in Hood River so we splurged for a hotel rather than sleeping in a tent every night. We didn’t want the ordeal of folding up a wet tent every morning and then set it up in the rain at night. It was really nice to sleep in a real bed and have a bathroom nearby. This camping really makes you appreciate the little comforts of home!

The weather mostly cleared up during the day making for a pleasant afternoon taking in the sights and people watching along the Columbia River. We spent a bit of time watching the wind surfers along the river. Every day that we were here the area was packed with wind surfers of all ages and abilities.

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They start them young here!

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We dropped by the Hood River museum to learn about the history of the area. They had some exhibits about the logging industry which has been their primary industry for years. I always find it interesting to learn about the local characters that make a mark on a town. These are the ones whose names I see on the map next to streets, mountains, lakes, rivers and other such landmarks named after them. Darryl recognized the name of the local entrepreneur, Lurh Jensen, from his fishing days as a youth. He fished with lures manufactured by this company out of Hood River. The museum had another exhibit telling of a darker past of bigotry against their fellow Japanese neighbors during the war years which was also rampant across the nation at that time. All of their exhibits were informative set against a backdrop of individual stories of the local townspeople of the time.

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After spending so much time in the more arid parts of the country, Hood River was a welcome change. Everywhere we look it’s green and it even “smells” green! There were storm clouds always on the horizon and a slight chill in the air. We hiked out to Tamanawas Falls in the Mount Hood National Forest. The trail passes through a beautiful forest alongside a stream fed by the falls. I was reminded how out of shape I have gotten as this group of teens went running past me along the trail. Once we have access to showers on a regular basis we’ll get back into running. For now, I’ll just have to enjoy taking in my surroundings at a more leisurely pace.

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An afternoon at Crater Lake

After our day at the Horse Expo we returned to the originally planned route to Oregon. We arrived late in Ashland, Oregon which is just north of the California border. We stayed long enough to get some rest at the Columbia Hotel in downtown Ashland. We were pleasantly surprised with how charming the hotel was. I had my doubts when I saw that we would be sharing a bathroom with the other guests but our stay there was great.

We had breakfast at Morning Glory restaurant, again. Darryl found the restaurant the last time we visited Ashland. Why try something new when we know this will be excellent?!

Our stay in Ashland was short since we wanted to get on the road to see some new territory and today that would be Crater Lake. I spoke with the National Forest ranger to find out where there was dispersed camping near Crater Lake. He recommended Union Creek just off of highway 62 near Prospect, OR. This place was recommended by the couple we met at Boulder Beach campground in Lake Mead so we decided to make that our destination.

I haven't felt this small in years!
I haven’t felt this small in years!
Enjoying the solitude.
Enjoying the solitude.

The next morning we drove to Crater Lake and spent the day enjoying the views. There was still snow on the ground and it was a bit chilly out. I was expecting to see cabins and boats around the lake similar to Lake Tahoe so it was a surprise to see the lake practically untouched by development. There is a small boat dock on the lake that can take people to the island at the center but you can’t see it from most of the viewpoints. We hiked down to the boat dock at lake’s edge and watched the younger crowd jump into the lake’s chilly waters. We preferred staying warm and dry!

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180° view of Crater Lake

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Western States Horse Expo – Sacramento

We didn’t expect to stop in California but we saw a sign, literally, that put Sacramento onto our trip itinerary. We were driving along I5 when we saw a billboard advertising that the Western States Horse Expo at the Cal Expo center would be in Sacramento the next day. We made a last minute decision to go to Sacramento for the night to attend the Expo. This would give me a chance to see a number of different horse breeds and talk with horse breeders, riders, and experts about what it really means to own a horse.

We went for the first day of the Expo and I attended a couple of seminars but the best part of the day was talking with the exhibitors at the Breed Revelation. I heard first hand from the breeders and owners about the characteristics of the specific breeds and why they chose their breed of preference. Before the Expo I was only familiar with the Quarter Horse, Clydesdale, Mules, Arabians and Mustangs but here I had a chance to see some new breeds that I’ve never heard of like the Halflinger,  Gypsy Vanner, Percheron, Peruvian Paso and Tennessee Walking Horse.

Here are some photos of the above breeds that were taken during their breed show events.

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Mustangs!
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Tennessee Walker
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Gypsy Vanner
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Peruvian Paso
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Arabian
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Highland Pony

There was an event called the Ultimate Super Horse where riders went through a series of challenges that were unfamiliar to the horse. The rider would demonstrate their control over the horse and the successful horse would navigate these challenges with little or no resistance. Below are a few photos of these challenges. Some examples of challenges not pictured include where a person with a bicycle would run with the bike weaving next to the horse and rider and another where a person dressed as a hiker would walk out in front of the horse waving their hat and making a wide gestures in front of the horse and rider. All of the riders that we saw made it through the stations but some horses were more hesitant than others to go through them all.

This Gypsy Vanner made it through the shiny / noisy junk obstacle just fine.
This Gypsy Vanner made it through the shiny / noisy junk obstacle just fine.

 

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This Appaloosa was the best at this challenge where they had to walk side-ways with the pole between front and rear legs then walk backwards staying between the poles.
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Here the horse had to walk through these scary pieces of foam.

Later in the day we watched the draft horses in action pulling wagons either individually or as teams. The Percherons were my favorites! Here is a video of a team of six galloping through the arena.

At the end of the day we spent some time talking with Lynn of the Gypsy Rose Ranch. The Gypsy Vanner captured my interest so much that I made plans with the breeder to stop by her ranch in Lodi, CA on our way through California later in the month.

Yosemite National Park

We only spent one day in Yosemite on this trip but we have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend many, many days in Yosemite over the years. Living in the Bay Area we were only about 4 hours from the park and we took advantage of the proximity to this valley. One of our first trips to Yosemite was to climb Half Dome during a full moon. That was an experience we’ll never forget. From the top of Half Dome we could see flickering embers of distant controlled burns and the valley glowed with the moonlit granite monoliths. It is one of my favorite memories of Yosemite. Our other favorite times to visit the valley is after a snow during Christmas or Thanksgiving when there are only a handful of tourists around. The park is transformed by the snow making it feel like your own little winter wonderland.

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This photo was taken on Dec 26, 2012

On this visit we arrived just before midnight during the height of the tourist season which also meant that there were no campsites available. We didn’t have any reservations and the only place to stay in the valley was at Housekeeping Camp which was our most expensive campsite of the whole trip for a slab of cement, three walls covered by a tarp and a cot with no bedding to sleep on. It was the last place that I wanted to stay given that a few people contracted hantavirus from the accommodations. It’s a deadly virus spread by mouse droppings. I didn’t sleep well that night with dreams filled of mice climbing the walls and crawling on me.

We spent our day in the valley visiting Yosemite Falls and walking up to Lower Yosemite Falls. We watched a few people jumping off the bridge into the Merced River then relaxed near El Capitan. I was able to put my new binoculars to use by spotting climbers inching their way up the massive granite face. We’re pretty happy with the binoculars which I purchased at REI. I wanted something of a reasonable size that I could take on our hikes in Alaska in the hopes that I can spot some wildlife at a safe distance. We settled on the Nikon Monarch M511 8×42.

We left our favorite valley sometime in the late afternoon continuing toward Oregon via Sacramento, CA to Ashland, OR.

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Parked outside our tent at Housekeeping Camp.
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The rustic interior. 🙂
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Climber on his way to El Capitan.
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A view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.
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Hanging out at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls.
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Beautiful Half Dome
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Sunlit butterfly on our walk along the Valley floor.
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Close-up of the Merced River.
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Keeping cool in the waters of the Merced.
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Bridal Veil Falls blowing in the winds.
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Shadows in the valley.

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Mono Lake, California

After picking up my license from Crowley Lake we went back north to Mono Lake. This is just north of the junction of 120 and 395. It’s one of the bluest lakes that I’ve ever seen. Set against the backdrop of the barren eastern sierra makes the blues of the lake pop. Along its edges are tufas which are made of calcium-carbonate crusts.

There are brine shrimp and alkali flies that birds feast on during their transcontinental migration along the great flyway. It’s a magnet for photographers who arrive by the van loads to capture the landscape in the softer evening light. We left at about the time they arrived and didn’t capture the sunset. We still had a lot of driving ahead of us to get to Yosemite Valley and we still had to stop for dinner. Our time at Mono Lake was short but as always, it was a lovely way to spend the late afternoon.

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Bodie…Our favorite Ghost Town

After Bishop we started our drive north on 395 toward Bodie. The plan was to buy me an annual fishing license since I purchased only a day license earlier.  Darryl already had an annual one knowing that he would want to fish later in the trip. After Crowley we would spend the night on the BLM land outside Mammoth. We stopped at Lake Crowley just long enough to purchase the license and take a few photos.

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We camped a few nights on the BLM land outside Mammoth last December during our trip to visit the hot springs. There are about 5 hot springs in the area and we visited all of them during that earlier trip. The hot springs didn’t sound as appealing in 100+ degree weather so we skipped them on this stop. The area is a popular place for campers considering the popularity of the hot springs which can get a little crowded at times but the views make it well worth it.

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This is a photo at Wild Willies hot tubs from our December-2013 trip.

This evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset with rainbows and storm clouds that threatened rain but never delivered.

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The next day we stopped into Mammoth for breakfast then did laundry. After our morning of errands which included laundry and buying me my fishing pole and lures we found a little fishing spot along the Mammoth Creek so Darryl could give me a spinning lesson with my new pole. I managed to catch the weeds right next to me, the bushes across the river and a tree and then a brown trout! It was only abut 4 inches long so we tossed it back into the river to continue its journey.

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After my fishing lesson we went to Bodie. We love this ghost town having visited it once before almost 15 years ago. We overheard a waitress describing Bodie to a customer a few nights earlier saying that it’s kinda boring and if you go, you might stay for about 20-30 minutes. Well, we were there for almost four hours! If you like history and taking photos of interesting scenery with beautiful backdrops, this is the place for you. If you don’t like that sort of thing then maybe skip this side trip. Bodie is a typical gold rush era town growing from a handful of people to over 10,000 in just one year. There were some interesting characters that lived here back in the day. The town’s reputation for lawlessness is evident from this quote from a child’s diary after learning she was moving to Bodie; “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie.”  Evidently the law did rule the business relationships when James Cain sued Standard Mine, the largest gold mining company in town, for drilling on his mine. He won the lawsuit and ended up owning the trespassing company when the resulting fines broke them.

You won’t find any services at Bodie except for a few porta potties. The state park service maintains the town in a “state of arrested decay” which I think means that they do the bare minimum to preserve the town’s structures. There are quite a few tourists that come through but not so many that they obstruct the photographs. It’s only about 30 minutes north of Mono Lake off of Hwy 395 up a well maintained dirt road. We recommend taking the time to make a short side trip if you like this sort of thing.

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On our way back from Bodie I noticed that I forgot my drivers license at Crowley Lake. So instead of camping at Mono Lake we headed back down to Bishop so that I could pick up my license the next morning. It’s a good thing we don’t have a set schedule!