Time to finally wrap up our time in Portland. The weather was perfect for a road trip during our last weekend, so we headed toward Mt. Hood. We drove east on I-84 and at the town of Hood River we turned onto the highly recommended “Fruit Loop.”
A 35-mile loop drive through apple, cherry, and pear orchards, vineyards, and farms—all dominated by Mt. Hood. After touring the loop we drove up to the aptly named Panorama Point for lunch. Mt. Hood was still hiding behind a few high clouds but the view was wonderful. The area truly lives up to its scenic designation!
Later as we reached the flanks of Mt. Hood we were finally treated to our first close-up view of the peak without clouds. It was stunning! Arriving at Timberline Lodge we learned that the sprinkles we had received earlier had fallen as snowflakes there. I guess it isn’t that unusual, after all the Lodge is at 5,960 feet.
I’d love to tell you the height of Mt. Hood but that measurement is somewhat in question—the summit is either 11,249 or 11,239 or 11,240 depending on who you believe. Regardless, Mt. Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon and the fourth tallest in the Cascade range. Most importantly for people into snow sports, it is high enough to offer year-round skiing and snowboarding.
The lifts were not operating during our visit, though we did see a couple boarders and one skier schuss down. The main activity seemed to be climbing. We tromped upslope through the snow and gained a good view of a climbing group—how small they looked as they crossed the snow field! The part of the route that we could see was well-traveled and did not seem that hazardous, though looks can be deceiving. Especially with how quickly the weather changed up there. One minute the top looked calm and serene in the sun, the next it disappeared behind fast moving clouds.
On June 14th, nine days before our visit, an experienced climber fell to his death after summiting. The climbing community was still debating what happened since he had summited Hood hundreds of times. His wasn’t the only death this year, another experienced climber died in February, also on his descent. Apparently they both hiked up overnight and summited near dawn—here’s hoping their last sunrise was one helluva beauty! I’m not being flippant—many of our friends would prefer to die with their “boots on” as they say. While I’m certain there are many people who dearly miss these men, perhaps it is some small comfort knowing they died doing what they loved.
Our unprepared feet were complaining about the cold so we stomped our way back to the lodge to warm them up. The intricate interior of the lodge exceeded our expectations. The huge, round fireplace, the open beams, the massive logs we expected. The artwork and intricate carvings we did not. The Works Progress Administration responsible for the lodge’s construction really outdid themselves. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt must have been impressed when he dedicated the building on September 28, 1937.
During the week Lisa and I headed over to Tualatin National Wildlife Refuge, less than five miles from her house, to explore the trails. The 1,856-acre Refuge was created in 1992 but only opened to the public in 2006. We roamed the perimeter trail which led us through marsh, forest, and wetlands. We spotted a good variety of birds including a nesting pair of bald eagles. Butterflies, slugs, and a nutria rounded out our walk. I wasn’t sure what to expect of such an urban refuge but I was pleasantly surprised. Amazing how quickly abused or neglected farmland can bounce back and provide a home for wildlife—over 200 avian and 70 animal species now live there.
The last few days of our stay were mostly sunny which made walking around town quite enjoyable. While Letterboxing I stumbled upon statues of characters from Beverly Cleary’s books at Grant Park. I immediately recognized Ramona Quimby but I needed help identifying Henry Huggins and Ribsy, his dog. Which sent me to the library to read more of Cleary’s works. While there I stumbled across A Girl from Yamhill, a memoir Cleary penned about her early years. Cleary is a true Oregonian: one great-grandfather, Jacob Hawn, brought his wife and family over the Oregon Trail by wagon in 1843.
After a brief stop to help Dr. Marcus Whitman (who was murdered in 1847 in what is now known as the Whitman massacre) the Hawns continued west along the Columbia River. At Fort Vancouver Hawn, a millwright, was sought out by Dr. John McLoughlin (now known as the Father of Oregon). At McLoughlin’s request Hawn settled his family in Oregon City and became the first millwright in the area. The family spread west into the fertile farming country of the Willamette River Valley. Cleary was born in McMinnville in 1916 and spent her first six years on a farm in Yamhill. Later her family moved to northeast Portland.
Cleary was recognized early for her writing talent but her future after high school was uncertain. Thankfully, a cousin in California offered Cleary a place to stay so she could attend a community college there. Cleary eventually earned a library science degree and became a librarian. Dissatisfied with the books available to children Cleary began writing her own. In 1950 her first book, Henry Huggins, was published. It and many of her successive books were set in Portland and drew heavily from her memories.
Without a doubt Cleary’s most famous character is Ramona Quimby—an inquisitive, rambunctious, earnest young girl with skinned-up knees. After finishing Cleary’s memoir it is safe to say that Cleary and Ramona clearly had a lot in common.
For our next outing Lisa and I headed out to the coast. One can never have too much ocean! (Since it was during the week Lance wasn’t able to join us.) Lisa picked a section of the Oregon Coast Trail for us to explore—one that afforded us with great views and a good workout. On the way back we rested in a small sandy beach. The cove was tucked back in and protected from the nasty winds that buffet the coast. The area is a favorite hangout for surfers and we saw quite a few wet-suited brave souls out there.
The next morning I caught the bus to downtown. There I strolled along the river, which was swarming with activity since they were setting up for the 25th Annual Waterfront Blues Festival. Shame that we weren’t going to still be in Portland for it—we attended a few years ago and had a marvelous time. Turning away from the river I wandered around downtown enjoying the city’s quirks. Portland has no shortage of them!
For lunch Lance, Andrew, Leah, Lisa and I converged on the food carts. With such a wide variety of foodstuffs to choose from everyone found something yummy. After lunch Lisa and I walked the neighborhoods chatting, then Lisa headed home around 3 PM to beat rush hour traffic. Andrew, Leah, Lance and I beat traffic ourselves by walking home from downtown; we had great views as we crossed over the Burnside Bridge. With the good conversation and sunny weather our three miles passed quickly.
That night we met Lisa and Gino for dinner. They introduced us to one of their favorite spots over on our side of town. We ended the evening playing darts at Horse Brass Pub—a place listed as one of the top 7 “places to have a drink in the world before you die” by All About Beer magazine. The beer selection was ample and the British-influenced atmosphere was fun, but mainly we enjoyed the company.
Our final night in Portland, Andrew and Leah had us over for dinner. Daniel and Alex, also Automatticians, rounded out the group. It was a great evening of food and discussion (even if it was mostly about web stuff).
The next morning we loaded up our car and pointed her south on I-5. We had a wonderful time in Portland but we were ready to get home. Dorothy said it best, “There’s no place like home…”
Photos: View our photographs from Final Week in Oregon.
Dates: Our last week in Oregon was June 23rd to 29th, 2012.