Sunday, August 31, 2014

Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike, Oregon…

One of the hikes we wanted to do in the Columbia River Gorge was the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike. There are several hikes within an hour drive of Portland offering waterfall lovers lots of pleasure and this hike is known as one of the best for waterfalls. The hike is classified as moderate and is about five miles. The moderate rating is due to some extensive climbing, the rockiness and some uneven trails along the basalt cliffs.

We chose to go the opposite direction most guide books recommend as we wanted to end by coming down the Multnomah Falls trail. As a result we parked in the lot near the Multnomah Lodge and took the Return Trail #442 at the west end of the lot heading west towards Wahkenna Falls. This part of the trail is relatively flat and follows parallel to old historic highway 30 for about half a mile until we reached Wahkenna Falls. There is an interesting hanging basalt cliff along this part of the trail and we also spotted a small snake as well as a banana slug.

Wahkenna Falls is adjacent to the scenic highway and is quite scenic as it drops into a beautiful pool below. From the falls we took the Wahkeena Trail #420 where we began a steep climb up gaining about 300' of elevation in nearly half a mile. Parts of this trial have some meticulously crafted stonework and the trail follows Wahkeena Creek up. Near the top  there is a side trail that took us to Lemmon's Viewpoint where we saw a plaque commemorating a firefighter who gave his life fighting forest fires nearby. The views from this point of the Columbia River below are fantastic…

About at this point the paved trail became dirt and we found ourselves in the narrows of Wahkeena Canyon which is just wide enough for the creek and our trail. We continued our upward climb until we reached Fairy Falls which is a small falls fanning out and providing sparkling water as it drops. Sharon took the opportunity to take a rest on an old bench near the falls. The trail leads to several junctions where we followed Trail #420 past them all. After what seemed like an eternity of climbing we finally summited and joined the Larch Mountain Trail #441. We then headed left on the Larch Mountain Trail which is in a nice stand of very tall fir trees with abundant ferns in the understory. We could hear and see water cascading down the slope and then heard the slight roar of Ecola Falls which drops straight down into what looks to be a great swimming hole.

Just around the corner from there we entered another hanging canyon called the Dutchman Tunnel arriving to Weisendanger Falls and just a small hike further we passed the smaller Dutchman Falls. From there we crossed a steel bridge built over a culvert and then the number of people of the trail increased significantly as we had reached the top of the Multnomah Falls trail.


The view at the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint is spectacular and worth the spur trial to see the very top of this magnificent waterfall. After a small climb up from the Multnomah Creek the trail became asphalt once again and from there we began our decent down the mountain. There are nine switchbacks that drop very fast and it took a toll on our knees as we descended. After about a mile down we come to the Benson Bridge which was 2/10 a mile from where we parked. We had to take one more photo and pause to admire the beautiful Multnomah Falls  before heading back to the car…. Yep, we agreed this was another great day to be retired and traveling via our RV

Friday, August 29, 2014

Visiting Neighborhoods and Nature…


During our stay here in Portland, Oregon we have been mixing nature hikes with neighborhood walks. In the Alberta neighborhood we found easy, free parking and knew we would enjoy this stroll since right afterward we saw two breweries Hopworks Urban Brewery and Lumpoc in the same block. Those would be our reward stops at the end of our walk. As we walked we could see that the neighborhood is experiencing a lot of growth as several condo construction projects were in full swing and we had to keep switching back and forth across streets due to the closed sidewalks surrounding the construction. We enjoyed seeing two very brightly colored painted murals and as with all the neighborhoods we have visited, there was a happy mixture of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The last time we were here we noticed many young people with brightly colored green, pink and purple dyed hair. We have seen much less of that this year but what struck us this time is that more of the young ladies are embracing the 50 and 60’s pinup girl look with the bandanas tied as hairbands and their hair tucked in all around it, bright red lipstick and bold eyeliner. High waisted skirts and shorts complete the look. Funny how fashion trends repeat…


Our beers were very good at both breweries but we especially enjoyed the atmosphere at Hopworks Urban Brewery where bicycle frames adorn the bar and 99 bottles of beer are proudly displayed on an opposing wall. Their happy hour extended to beer and food so we couldn’t resist ordering some wonderful handmade pretzels to go along with our beer. These pretzels alone are worth a visit to this place for what is truly a road treat! A fun day indeed…

We have also been hiking a lot in the Columbia River Gorge to make up for our last trip when Sharon was in a cast. We have been seeing lots of amazing and stunning waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge . Two notable hikes we have taken are the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop hike and the Horsetail Falls Loop Hike with the added extension hike to Triple Falls. Both of these hikes were 5 or more miles each and I will blog about these later in more detail.


Since my recently repaired crown come off my molar again I made an appointment at the Dental School to have it re-glued. On the way I dropped Sharon off in the Pearl District as she wanted a haircut at the Paul Mitchell School on Broadway. After her haircut she had a little walkabout enjoying the hustle and bustle downtown. She couldn’t resist the food carts lining 5th and Stark Streets. (Carts lined up as such are called Pods). At the pod she ordered a very delicious spicy chicken Korean taco. She then enjoyed strolling the green space on Park Avenue pausing to sit on a park bench doing a little people watching before walking along the Riverside Trail then over to the Dental School to meet back up with me. Her timing was perfect as I was just getting finished. Since it was time for Happy Hour we headed off to some new (to us) breweries at Harvester and Burnside Brewery.

Neighborhoods and Nature 042Harvester Brewery was the first entirely gluten free brewery in the United States. Since many other folks out there have issues with gluten we thought we should try their beers and see what we thought about them. Now these beers are brewed with chestnuts, lentils, oats and hops which are 100% gluten free. I didn’t care for their hoppy IPA’s but I did actually like their Dark Ale. So if you are gluten free we found a brewery in Portland just for you…

Afterwards we visited Burnside Brewery where the energy is the place was very upbeat. Mostly young professionals filled the establishment and it was very crowded and as we found it was because of their normal Wednesday $3.00 pint night. Lucky us as we were able to squeeze in at the bar and got to drink $3.00 pints of some very tasty beer. As we seated ourselves we met two young attorneys who were there also enjoying $3.00 pint night after work. What a delightful visit we had with the two of them…

Portland has been a blast and we cannot believe how the time is flying by. This Labor Day weekend we leave our park to stay at Portland Fairview RV for four nights then we will return to Columbia River RV for our final week in Portland. So much to see and so little time!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Urban Hiking in Portland, Oregon…

This is our second trip to Portland Oregon but the first time Sharon had wrist surgery and was in a cast and on pain medications. She is certainly enjoying our second trip since she is now able to enjoy our hikes and the wonderful crafted beer selections found here in Beervana. In addition to sampling as many breweries as we can during our three and a half weeklong stay, we certainly wanted to revisit the quirky downtown area.

Like Austin, Texas Portland is a very laid back place and both cities advertise they want their towns “weird” and both are friendly, walkable cities. Portland claims to have the largest per capita number of breweries and, according to a Time Magazine article, the most strip clubs. Our plans certainly don’t include visiting any of the strip clubs but we did get a laugh reading about one local club boasting its girls were all Vegan and only the clothes were not composed of animal products... only in Portland!  Another club advertises breakfast “legs and eggs”. Definitely weird (smile).

We decided to hike around Portland on Saturday and found a parking garage charging $3.50 for the whole day. After parking we headed straight over to Voodoo Donuts. a real road treat, where I ordered their signature maple bacon bar and Sharon had a plain maple bar. Voodoo Donuts is one of the iconic places that represent Portland and is fun just to stand in line, people watch and check out their very interesting assortment of weirdly named pastries… Our selections were very delicious. From there we walked over to Pioneer Courthouse Square where we luckily ran into an Italian Festival with very lively music. We stayed for a while and enjoyed the atmosphere and music before embarking on a hike Sharon found to the highest point in Portland, Council Crest Park. The hike was supposed to be a loop back to Pioneer Park with one leg of the route to be taken riding a free tram downhill. It sounded good so off we went.

Unfortunately we (Sharon) misread the starting point so we actually reversed the trail. Normally this would be no problem but the reverse route negated the tram ride. This meant that our walk turned out to be an almost 11 mile hike and not the 6.5 we originally planned. None the less the hike was fun and we started out hiking through through city streets, then through a park to a Maple forested trail that went straight up via many switchbacks to the crest. As we crested we saw a wedding taking place and we could see why as the views at the crest were fantastic.

One direction we could see a panorama of the city from above and another direction we saw Mt Hood which on this day was free of clouds. We returned a slightly different way via some neat neighborhoods back to Pioneer Courthouse Square. We loved the architecture in these very unique neighborhoods with their beautiful interesting homes and how they were designed to fit in the rolling and steep hills. Returning to Pioneer Park three hours after we started, the Italian Fest was in still in full swing so we stayed and listened to some more music there before taking a walk down Park Street through some lovely greenery over to 5th Avenue.

After all that hiking we were tired and thirsty so we found a brewery called Pints Brewing Company a couple of blocks from where our car was parked. So we simply had to stop and check out their crafted beer selections. We had some good brews and even though our feet were pretty tired, we did hike a lot of the city on this day so even with our snafu with directions, it was a fun-filled scenic day… and a great urban hike!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Never Have Been on an RV Vacation? Why not!

Crater-Lake-Oregon_thumbWhen I was younger I traveled all over the USA and even several places throughout the world. Why not? I have always loved to travel but one form of travel I never considered until later in life. That unique way of travel is to travel by Recreational Vehicle. When my wife and I were contemplating retirement we considered several options. We could stay where we were living in Texas or we could buy a retirement home in some other location such as Florida or we could rent or purchase a nice motorhome and set off to explore the USA in search of our future retirement hot spot!

Since we had never traveled in an RV before we had some anxiety about driving such a big rig. After much soul searching and plenty of looking at RV’s on lots and online we found a motorhome just for us… so we sold all of our “STUFF” that wasn’t going to fit into our RV and put the rest inside and hit the road!

Springtime-in-the-Texas-Hill-Country[2]They say ignorance is bliss and it must be true as we happily took off knowing we were about to learn a lot about RV’ing in a learn-as-we-go fashion! As we quickly found out, there is a whole community of us out there and with the world wide web we have appreciatively received tips, support and advice from many seasoned full-timer RV'ers.

In looking back, as newbies to the RV world there was a steep learning curve but we managed to travel from Texas to the Florida Keys in about four months without destroying the RV or our marriage. We have been traveling by RV now for about three and one half years and have only one regret! Our only regret is that we didn’t RV sooner!

Multnomah-Falls-Oregon_thumbAfter traveling along the east coast the first year the second year we traveled along the west coast from California to Washington. Last year we went north to Niagara Falls and visited Canada before traveling around all the Great Lakes.  This past year we went to Louisiana to experience Mardis Gras, spent a month in Texas in the scenic hill country and then explored the mountain states including Arches, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks!

Pictured-Rocks-National-Lakeshore-in[2]Now you don’t have to get crazy and sell everything and do what we did but I will tell you don’t put off your travel plans too long. We have met many RV’ers and guess what the most common answer was to the question: “Do you have any regrets?”  Nearly everyone we ask this question says their only regret was that they didn’t start RV’ing earlier!!!

For those of you that are considering Rv’ing… we highly recommend you stop procrastinating and delve into it!  If you aren’t sure about RV’ing the best way to go in one for your first time is to go out and rent one to check out what this lifestyle is all about!  We feel you will happily realize that checking items off your bucket list as we have is fulfilling, invigorating and exciting. The road with its many superb adventures is awaiting you!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Enjoying Portland–Hiking and Imbibing…

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imageIn planning our visit to Portland Oregon I knew that Labor Day weekend might be a problem and unfortunately I was correct. We wanted to stay a month at Columbia River RV park but as I predicted Labor Day weekend was completely booked. Therefore we booked 10 days then will leave to stay at another park nearby for the four day weekend, then return to Columbia River RV park for another week. Hopefully, though short of the month we planned, this amount of time should be enough to pursue our goals for our visit.

Portland Oregon 006The last time, two years ago, we were in Portland Sharon had broken her wrist, wearing a splint and taking pain medication. As a result we had to cancel several hikes we wanted to take and she was also unable to enjoy the many delicious crafted beer offerings. This time around we hope to remedy these omissions. It looks like we will have a pretty full calendar as the city has over 30 brew pubs to consider and a long list of hiking options in and around town.

Our first night we met for Happy Hour with friends CeCe, Bret and Julie. We had a wonderful time at their neighborhood bar, Concordia Ale House,  catching up on the news since we last met. It was a great start to what we expect to be a wonderful stay. Our second day was devoted to some maintenance as we had water leaking from the AC in our bedroom. After calling Tiffin, I got some suggestions for cleaning the coil and checking the seals so I followed their suggestions and so far no more leaking!

Our third day we planned a long bike ride along the river and took a quick drive over to a park along the river. Not far into the ride my bike broke down (sigh) so we loaded the bikes onto the car bike rack and took a long walk along the beach instead. I guess this is our year for things wearing/breaking or whatever as the outside lights of the motorhome have also quit working and I have yet to solve that. Anyway that evening we went to Breakside Brewery where we enjoyed some delicious crafted beer while seeing others at the bar ordering up some amazing Happy Hour food such as a brimming bowl of fresh mussels. The only reason we resisted was we had already planned a special dinner of filet mignon meal at home with twice baked potatoes and broccoli (and it was fantastic).

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The next day we hiked in Forest Park on the Maple Loop trail. Our GPS gave us a little trouble in locating the trailhead, but we made it by about 2:30 on a gorgeous 72 degree day. The lower loop is 3 miles but with a detour we took a slightly longer route but it was beautifully green all around us as giant ferns lined the trail amidst the towering maple trees. The sun shone through the beautiful maple leaves from above providing for a very scenic hike.

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Portland Oregon 015Toward the end of the loop we encountered ripe blackberry bushes so we paused 20 or thirty minutes to pick a quart of freshly ripened blackberries. We learned from our hikes in Montana to pack along a plastic bag in case we run across berries so we filled our bag as we made our way on the last leg of the trail. An hour and a half later it was Happy Hour so we visited Portland Brewing Company where we enjoyed delicious beer and great conversations with other patrons at the bar who gave us even more suggestions for hikes and brew pubs near Portland.

With the fun we are having and a few maintenance issues popping up, we are already talking about possibly extending our stay…..

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Nights in the Columbia River Valley, Oregon…


After a really great time in the Tri-Cities, Washington the time had come to move on.  We had two open nights available before our reservation in Portland, so we thought we would explore The Dalles and Hood River, Oregon.  Two years ago we remembered this as a wonderful drive and were excited that this time rather than driving straight through, we would linger a couple of days and really explore the area.  There are several state parks scattered all along the drive with first-come-first served sites available and we landed a nice one at Memaloose State Park. 

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After setting up our site we decided to drive over to The Dalles to explore it and rather than driving the freeway, we took the Scenic Highway 30 Byway.  What a great decision that was.  This drive took us higher in elevation offering some really stunning views of the Columbia River at several turnouts.  We could not resist stopping at each turnout because the panorama was just gorgeous.  So what should have been a 15 minute drive over took about three times longer with all our stopping and photographing of the scenery.  By the time we made it to The Dalles, it was Happy Hour so we stopped at Clock Tower Ales Restaurant and Brew Pub.  We enjoyed our cold beers and had we been hungry we certainly would have enjoyed their yummy looking happy hour priced food specials.  Instead we decided we would rather enjoy our dinner with great river and mountain views at our RV site at Memaloose.

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The next morning we were both wanting to take a drive over to Mt. Hood and take a hike if we found a trail to our liking.  We took the “Fruit Loop”, an aptly named route winding past farms and orchards growing peaches, apples, cherries and other treats.   Sharon wanted to stop so we did and saw some delicious offerings.  We left with a bag of several varieties of freshly picked apples.  As we made our way up the mountain we saw several cars parked at a trailhead to Tamawanas Falls.  The map at the trailhead indicated it was a 4 mile hike round trip and we felt this would be perfect.  The hike started out paralleling the road but soon turned into a canyon following a creek all the way up to the Falls.  The Falls were fantastic and the cool mist was a treat on this hot summer day.  After returning from the hike we drove further up the mountain to the Mt Hood Meadows Ski resort.  The resort was closed for the season but had picnic tables outside facing the ski slopes and the top of Mt Hood giving us a perfect place for lunch.  It was great watching the clouds wisp on and off of the mountaintop and to see the sun glinting off the snow.

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After lunch, as we were driving away from the resort we spied another Falls trail.  Umbrella Falls would be only a half mile so off we went! Umbrella Falls was smaller than Tamawanas but was a beautiful cascading falls nonetheless.  As an added bonus we discovered ripe huckleberries begging to be picked all along the trail.  Needless to say, we could not resist taking home some huckleberries. 

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We made our way over to the town of Hood River.  We liked the look of the town so we parked and walked the three main blocks.  Along the way we visited two breweries Full Sail and Double Mountain.  We especially enjoyed Double Mountain where Sharon enjoyed a Carrie Ladd Porter and I a nice IPA.  Back at camp we prepared a yummy dinner for two and then I made a nice campfire, we both voiced how glad we were that we decided to stay the two nights in this beautiful place.  Next stop…..Portland!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wine and Beer Tasting in Washington Wine Country…

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We have been having a blast with our friends Marshall and Debbie here in the Tri-Cities, Washington Area. The other day Debbie invited us to a local establishment called the Grill On Gage where they were hosting the Pelican Brewery (from Oregon) for some beer pairings called their first Tap Takeover. We met up with Debbie,their son and his girlfriend. Once seated we were served three beers: Scottish Style Ale, an IPA and one of their core Ales. They were paired with some wonderful smoked pulled pork tacos, a tasty Gazpacho with shrimp and a very good Caprese Salad with a yummy balsamic reduction. We had a great evening of fun and our table won two of the door prizes including the grand prize of a custom Pelican Growler.

Tri Cities and Wine Tasting 011Tri Cities and Wine Tasting 014

We have been having a blast with our friends Marshall and Debbie here in the Tri-Cities, Washington Area. The other day Debbie invited us to a local establishment called the Grill On Gage where they were hosting the Pelican Brewery (from Oregon) for some beer pairings called their first Tap Takeover. We met up with Debbie,their son and his girlfriend. Once seated we were served three beers: Scottish Style Ale, an IPA and one of their core Ales. They were paired with some wonderful smoked pulled pork tacos, a tasty Gazpacho with shrimp and a very good Caprese Salad with a yummy balsamic reduction. We had a great evening of fun and our table won two of the door prizes including the grand prize of a custom Pelican Growler.


The next day we headed west to the town of Prosser, a nice town along the Yakima River. The Indians who once resided here called the area "Tap tut", meaning rapids, but this town is now known for its more than 11,000 acres of vineyards and their associated wineries. Here we visited several wineries concentrated in an area called Horse Heaven Hills but the one winery that stood out to me was the Coyote Canyon Winery. Most wineries we visit will have one or two wines that will appeal to me but this winery had the best wines from top to bottom. I prefer reds but even their whites were quite tasty…And of course, we had to purchase a bottle to take home with us.


We stopped for lunch and a beer at Whistran Brewery (after all I am more a “beer snob” that a “wine snob” <insert grin>). The crafted beers here were mostly average but they had some really funny captions on their shirts. After lunch we stopped at another winery for a tasting, then we stopped at the Horse Heaven Saloon that abuts the Horse Heaven Brewery where we sampled some of their beers as well. Pretty decent stouts here and a fun place to have a meal with a brew when visiting this town.

imageOur last day we went with Marshall and Debbie over to Walla Walla. Walla Walla may be best known for its sweet onions but it is known more recently for its wine as there are over 100 wineries around Walla Walla.  We visited  a few wineries  with my favorite in this area being Waterbrook Winery, especially their Cabernet’s and Syrah’s, just east of town.

Debbie and Marshall had signed up to take a wine making class so while they were in class Sharon and I walked all around town and over to Whitman College. This is a private liberal arts college which started out as a seminary and has become one of the top liberal arts schools in the USA (recently ranked 41st by U.S. News and World Report). We thought it was a nice campus with quite a lot of public outdoor art all around it. We feel it is just another reason we love walking around campuses… even if we don’t always fully appreciate the artist's best intentions.

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We met back up with Debbie and Marshall at the Red Monkey Lounge for dinner and beverages. They run a really nice happy hour where many of their appetizers were only $6.00 so we had most of them and just shared. It was a fun place indeed! We loved our time visiting with our friends from way back to our days in high school and college days.  We all had a fun, fun, time, time in Walla Walla…


Did I mention that we also spent an evening at their house and enjoyed their pool and the fur babies. We especially fell in love once again with the dog Archie who is a surfing dood… or is that dog. We will head west from here for a few days in the Columbia River valley before moving over to Portland for a stay of nearly three weeks. We are really looking forward to revisiting Portland!