Sunday, October 30, 2011

Parents! Portland!

So, back there in September, Mom and Dad Jones came out for a visit.  As we have all been in and around Seattle several times, we decided to switch things up a bit and have them fly into Portland, home of weirdness extraordinaire!

Mom and Dad flew in on a beautiful Saturday (although quite hot, low 90s), and after picking them up at the airport, we headed to Washington Park for the Portland International Rose Test Garden.  It is a huge rose garden on a hill overlooking Portland.  It is a testing ground for new rose varieties, and roses are sent from all over the world.  There is also a nice grassy outdoor amphitheater and a train you can ride over to the zoo, as well as a crazy awesome Japanese garden (but you have to pay to see that.  Its totally worth it).

It smelled nice.   

After the gardens, we went to Jamie & Libby & Emory's to catch up and be in the presence of awesome people before dinner at Chameleon.  Rachel was good enough to introduce us to Chameleon on a previous trip.  It is a favorite of hers, and now ours!  French-Asian Fusion (though not Vietnamese).  It is the weirdest place.  It has amazing food, a great drink/wine selection, they play silent old black & white movies projected on one of the windows at night, it has been in business for 9 years, and both of the times I have been there (both on a Saturday night) it has been almost completely empty.  The first time we sat down at around 7:30 and left at 10, and saw one other table seated.  

Jamie, Emory, Mom, Dad, Rachel, Prema, Pete, Libby

Everything on the menu is awesome, but I specially recommend the Grilled Dates (and yes I know Prosciutto is meat), Grilled Prawns and the Butternut Squash Ravioli.  

Knowing that it was going to be in the 90s for the weekend, and having never been to the Oregon Coast before, it seemed like such a no-brainer.  I mean, 1.5 hours from Portland is the coast, the same coast where they filmed The Goonies.  The same coast where Lewis & Clark met the Pacific.  Sunday was the day.  The plan was to start at Cannon Beach and work our way northwards to Astoria, popping in at all of the little beach towns (and a state park) on the journey.  After a brunch at Mother's (Just go if you haven't been.  If you have, go again.  It's amazing), we jumped in the car and hit the road to the first stop: Cannon Beach, home of Haystack Rock!

To paraphrase Wikipedia, Haystack Rock is 235-foot tall monolithic rock adjacent to the beach and accessible by foot at low tide. The tide pools are home to many intertidal animals, including starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets and sea slugs.  After an hour and half in the car, we were quite excited to be getting close to Cannon Beach.  However, about 20 minutes outside town we started to see what appeared to be smoke over by the coast.  Alas, no such luck as the whole coast was fogbound.  The temperature had also dropped to about 60 (and we were prepared for 90).  Here is a shot of Mom and Dad at Haystack Rock

We quickly retreated to a cafe for hot chocolate and Irish coffees.  The plan to pop in at all of the beach towns was immediately revised.  Next stop was Fort Stevens, originally built during the Civil War era to protect the mouth of the Columbia.  It actually took fire from a Japanese submarine during WWII but did not return fire so as to not display the location of the artillery batteries.  It is a huge state park, with lots of cool stuff to see.  First up is the wreck of the Peter Iredale, run aground in 1906

There were also several gun batteries and bunkers and whatnot that you can walk around and see.  

We also got to see the spot where the Columbia meets the Pacific Ocean, which was absolutely breathtaking:

Traffic from the fort to Astoria got pretty heavy, and but it was kind of neat because there had been a classic car show at one of the beachside towns that weekend, so there were hot rods and muscle cars and just really awesome old cars driving around everywhere.  When we finally made it in to Astoria, we stopped at The Flavel House Museum, a Victorian Mansion that is pretty awesome.  We also found our way to the Astoria Column, which sits on top of a huge hill and gives a spectacular view of the mouth of the Columbia and surrounding environs.  

That night we drove back, and after a particularly grueling hour long traffic jam in the middle of nowhere, we made it back to Portland at around 8 that night.  We made a quick dinner at The Widmer Brothers Gasthouse, and much to Dad's exuberant delight they had Sauerbraten on the menu.  Having been Sausaged & Cabbaged sufficiently, we called it a night.  In the morning we went out to brunch with Rachel, and Mom and Dad headed to the airport and back to Chicago.  It was a great trip. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Labor Day at Staircase (Olympic National Park)

Over Labor Day weekend this year Prema and I went to Staircase in the Olympic National Park.  The campground is in the very Southeast of the Park, about 45 minutes past Olympia.  Once you get past Hoodsport, the drive goes one lane, then unpaved.  It is a really nice drive up to the campground and you pass by Lake Cushman, which is gorgeous.  At the Northern tip of the lake there are lots of huge rocks that people swim out to and lounge on, you can just park at the side of the road and walk down (this is before the park entrance, natch), and would make a killer destination on a hooky day in the summer.  The campground itself is pretty nice with river access and bees in the logs that sting you sometimes.  And, by "sometimes", I mean "when we were there."

the campsite

Prema and Penny by the river.  The whole campground (at least the "A" loop) is right by the river that feeds the lake.  You can hear the water gurgle throughout, and it is quite lovely.  

There are a few nice little trails from the site, and here are some highlights from the morning's hike.  Like pretty much everywhere in the Olympic National Park, it is stupidly gorgeous.

the big cedar


inside the big cedar

i think this bench might be a doorway to narnia

fuzzy shot of an osprey taking off

Penny posing

It was a very cool place, and we definitely want to return as we didn't get a chance to check out the lake, which on the right day could be pretty amazing too.