A Day in Portland

After a great day at Cannon Beach we made our way to Portland. We didn’t have a lot on our agenda except for a bit of shopping, but it ended up taking up the entire day. We started with brunch at Mother’s Bistro, which was both fancy and delicious, before spending 2 hours a piece at Powell’s Bookstore and REI. I’m a huge bookworm (I actually have a second blog where I write book review if you want to check it out – The Paperback Princess), so I was super enthused to visit Powell’s. It was my second time and if possible, it was even bigger than I remembered. I spent the bulk of my time in the front of the store where all the sales and featured books were, and a little bit of time browsing the used books. I never even made it to the third floor.

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The two things I love most about bookstores are learning about new reads that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, and browsing used books for good deals. I got to do both at Powell’s! I made a few impulses purchases of books that I thought sounded good or were featured, and found a few used books that I’ve been looking for. I don’t think I actually paid full price for anything and walked away with 6 books.

As for REI, it is a very popular outdoor store, basically the US version of MEC. Despite how popular it is, I’d actually never been, so I was excited to finally visit, especially since they had lots of 4th of July deals on. Unfortunately I didn’t really find any deals, but I did get a cute fanny pack and a new pair of shorts that I really like. Lien and Brandon got a few knick knacks as well and the afternoon pretty much got away from us and we finally checked into our hotel.

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The bulk of our evening was dedicated to going on a little bit of a brewery crawl, which I love doing in Vancouver and most recently did in Calgary. We hit up a few popular breweries (Deschutes and Von Ebert’s), but the beer went to my head pretty fast. Well, at the time I blamed the beer for a bit of a headache, but I later learned it was the first symptom of covid presenting (boo!). So we cut the tour a little short and went in search of some sweet treats instead, with me and Lien getting cookies and Brandon, ice cream.

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The real highlight of the trip though was a ghost tour that Brandon had found and signed us up for! It went around old town Portland and introduced us to its very sordid history. Due to its location near the Pacific and its status as a “port city”, Portland was a hotbed for human trafficking. The city has a very extensive tunnel system that runs throughout the entire old town and was used to smuggle men in and out of the town into a life of slavery aboard the ships running to China. They would be lured into the bars and once they were drunk, dropped into the tunnels and forced servitude. As a result, Portland has gained a new status as one of the most haunted cities in the world.

The tour was fascinating. We had a great tour guide and I loved that we learned so much actual history on top of the ghost stories. I did a walking tour when I visited Portland back in 2014, but it was entirely above-ground and focused on Portland’s more reputable history. I liked the ghost tour because I learned about whole other side of Portland that I knew nothing about.

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The following day we had to head back to Vancouver, but first we decided to check out some of Portland’s most reputable waterfalls: Moltnomah and Wahkeena Falls. If you live in the PNW, you’ve probably already seen them both on instagram and I’m embarrassed to say, I was yet another tourist adding to the masses. My problem was that I didn’t do my research, something rare for me. We drove out the Columbia River only to discover that you need a day pass to visit the falls. The park rangers advised us we could visit Bridal Veil Falls instead, and not wanting the drive to be a total waste, we decided to do that.

Fortunately, Bridal Veil Falls was lovely and I really don’t feel like I missed out on anything. It’s a short walk to the waterfall and there’s a side walk with gorgeous views of Columbia gorge. We had stopped by a pastry shop on the way out of town for breakfast and picked up some delicious treats, which we ate while enjoying the view. It was a quick stop, but it was perfect for us because we still had 5 hours of driving to get back home.

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Unfortunately for us, we had quite a long wait at the border and Brandon cursed both me and Lien for not having Nexus. In fact, the wait was so long that I had enough time to apply for Nexus while waiting. But overall, it was a really fun trip across the border. Portland is a bit of a far drive with the border crossing, but I was glad to finally visit after 8 years of hoping to return! 

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Larrabee and Ecola State Parks

This year I decided to celebrate Canada Day by… leaving Canada. It felt a bit ironic to go to America for Canada Day, but I’m not really into celebrating the holiday with what’s going on with residential schools and indigenous groups asking us to recognize it as a day of mourning instead. So I was happy to forgo any celebrations, though I made sure to get out of America before Independence Day because I’m also not into celebrating what’s going on with reproductive rights in the states. So politically, not a great weekend for either country.

But it was a good weekend to hightail it down to Oregon instead! I’ve only been to Oregon once in 2014 when I went on a road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco. We blew through Oregon pretty quickly though and just spent one day in Portland and one day at Crater Lake. I’ve been wanting to re-visit Portland ever since and finally made the time for it 8 years later (what is time?!). Crossing the border can be very slow on long weekends, so we decided to cross after work on Thursday to get ahead of the Friday morning rush. This turned out to be a great decision and it only took us about 5 minutes to cross.

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Brandon was driving and Lien had booked us some campsites for the weekend. It was a last minute plan, so there wasn’t a whole lot available, but he did manage to score us what turned out to be a pretty amazing site! We drove through Bellingham and then exited the I-5 to drive down along the coast to Larrabee State Park. It made for a really nice scenic coastal drive and Larrabee Park has amazing views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands. We got there just in time to set up our tents and then we walked down to the coast to watch the sunset! It was a totally clear day and the water was really calm. I enjoyed a hot chocolate as we watched the sun light the sky up orange.

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We hit the sack after that because we wanted to get an early start the next morning. We had the car all packed up and ready to go again at 8am and had a lot of driving to get to Oregon. We had decided to wait another day before going to Portland and were heading down to Cannon Beach instead. Unfortunately traffic wasn’t great on the drive down and we crawled through Tacoma. Cannon Beach definitely added a few more hours of driving onto our day, so we hoped it was worth it.

We stopped for lunch after crossing into Oregon and then continued on to Ecola State Park. Between the traffic and the food stops, the drive ended up taking longer than we’d hoped (stretching 5 hours of driving into almost 8 hours) and we arrived at Ecola State Park at 4pm. Ecola State Park is just north of Cannon Beach and has several other beaches and trails that you can explore. We didn’t have the time for any substantial hiking, but we decided it was worth checking out some of the other beaches.

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First we hit up Indian Beach and watched people trying to surf. We walked the length of the beach and did a little exploring before driving back to Ecola viewpoint. The beach is mostly sandy with some rocks and the water was really cold, but you can see a ton of sea stacks at the end of the beach. You can’t access any of the beaches from Ecola point, but it has a beautiful view of Crescent and Cannon Beach. It’s about 2km to hike down to Crescent Beach, so we decided to go for it.

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The trail is advertised as for experienced hikers only, it wasn’t too challenging, but it does have a fair bit of washout and mud along the trail, which you have to walk through or around. It’s a pretty steep descent along switchbacks at the end to get to the beach, so be prepared for a climb on the return. The hike took us about 35 minutes and the whole time I was considering whether it was really worth it or if we should have just went straight to Cannon Beach. When we finally got to Crescent Beach though, it was an easy answer, it was definitely worth it!

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It was around 6pm and we had the entire kilometer long beach to ourselves! It was an overcast day, but the sun did its best to try and peak out while we were there. There’s a big cluster of sea stacks at the end of the beach and because the tide was on its way out, we got a beautiful reflection of the stacks in the water. We walked the entire length of the beach, running in and out of the cold water. No one showed up the entire time we were there and I found several sand dollars buried in the sand. Fortunately, the return trip was easier than anticipated and we headed down towards Cannon Beach when we got back to the car.

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Cannon Beach is pretty popular, but since it was Canada Day and Americans were still working, our timing was good and it wasn’t busy at all. A few of Brandon’s friends met us at the beach in the evening and we had a seafood dinner on the patio at Mo’s overlooking the beach! We didn’t end up doing that much exploring along Cannon Beach, but we did go for a nice post-supper walk before heading to our campsite.

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Unfortunately we couldn’t find a site on the beach, so we had booked one an hour away at L.L. Stub Memorial Park. It was a pain to have to drive there late on Friday night, but it saved us an hour on our drive into Portland the following day. It took us a while to find the site in the dark because Lien had accidentally booked a full service site, so we ended up setting up our 2 tiny tents surrounded by huge RV’s that were clearly spending the entire summer at the park. The one nice thing though was that this park at least had free showers! Something we couldn’t say about Larrabee State Park.

Hiking Chain Lakes Trail

The final trail in my little ‘Fall hiking in Washington’ series is the Chain Lakes Trail that leaves from the ski area at Mount Baker. Me, Lien, and Emily had visited the previous year in March to snowshoe Artist Point and were totally awed by the views, so we decided to come back in the fall for a different view. It was Thanksgiving Weekend in October 2019, just one week after me and Lien had hiked Yellow Aster Butte. This time we were joined by Emily and my friend Amy, who flits in and out of my life every now any then. We never really know when she’s going to appear and disappear again, but it’s fun to hike with her!

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We had Thanksgiving dinner at my house on Sunday night and then made an early departure on Monday morning to cross the border. Traditionally, me and Brandon have always gone on a Thanksgiving Monday hike (3 years running), but this year he went on holiday and bailed on me, so I had to console myself with my other companions. I really liked both Yellow Aster Butte and Chain Lakes, but of the two, I would definitely have to give the edge to Chain Lakes. At 11.5km, it has half the elevation gain of Yellow Aster Butte, just 375m. The trail starts in the backcountry parking lot at the ski hill. Be sure to get and print out the parking pass online before you go because there’s no where to get it on the mountain. It’s only $5 and I’m told you can get it at the visitor center at the bottom before you drive up, but I’ve never once seen it open on the weekend.

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Chain Lakes is one of those rare trails that is scenic the ENTIRE trail. You’ve already driven up most of the elevation gain to get to the ski hill and from there, the trail continues up to the summer parking lot for Artist Point. In the summer, you can drive almost the whole way up to Artist Point, but at some point in September they close the road. Hiking up the road is the least scenic part of the trail, but still has really nice views looking down into the big bowl that’s popular among backcountry skiers. We decided to skip the Artist Point viewpoint since we’d already done it and instead continued down the other side of the parking lot into the backcountry. I think it’s a bit of an understated part of the trail, but it was one of my favourite parts. You hike right across the slope of Table Mountain, looking out towards Mount Baker.

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From the Skyline Divide Trail, I felt like I was so close to Mount Baker that if I continued hiking I would eventually reach it (you can reach the foothills, but then the trail ends). But from the Chain Lakes Trail, you really are on the trail that goes up to the top of Mount Baker (albeit this is only for experienced mountaineers). It looked like if we just crested a few more hills we’d pretty much be there, but of course, it’s further then it looks as the size of the mountain dwarfs everything surrounding it and can be a bit misleading. Once you get to the end of Table Mountain, the trail turns to continue around the mountain and over to the chain lakes part of the trail. You can also hike along the top of Table Mountain, which may have to be an adventure for another day.

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The first lake you come to is Mazama Lake. You can camp there, but it’s pretty small and not the most scenic, so if you’re overnighting, I’d recommend one of the other lakes instead. After Mazama, you come to Iceberg lake, which is the biggest and has staggering views looking up at the steep cliffs that surround the lake. This is where we decided to stop for lunch and enjoy the views before starting our climb back up the pass to the top of the trail.

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One of the awesome things about Chain Lakes, in addition to the fact that the entire hike is scenic, is that it’s a loop trail, so you don’t have to do any return on the trail. It starts to climb around Iceberg Lake until you reach Haynes Lake, which is where I’d recommend branching off to camp. From there it gets really steep. There’s some great views looking back down the trail at Iceberg lake and you continue climbing to the top of the pass before starting to descend back into the bowl we were looking at from the start of the trail. It seemed like most people were doing the trail in the opposite direction as us, starting with the steep climb up the bowl. I’d recommend going the same way as us though because then you get to finish the hike with what was, in my opinion, the best view.

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The view from the top of the pass is really unreal. The mountains stretch out around you in every direction and as you climb up the side of the Mazama dome, you really feel like you’re on top of the world. We’d already had lunch, but we decided to stop and have a break to make tea so that we could enjoy the view for a little bit longer! Even though we still had a few kilometers left to go, from the top we could pretty much see the trail down to the bottom almost the whole way there. We continued from the pass and started the long descent down the bowl to the parking lot. We were basically undoing all of the elevation from the rest of the hike in this stretch, which is why I recommend doing the hike from the other direction, that way the ascent is more gradual, with a few flat parts in between as you climb up. The descent down the bowl though is hard on the knees, so something to take into consideration as well.

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The trail switchbacks for a while until you finally reach the bottom. It weaves through the valley and you pass by a few more lakes and the most quaint little rock bridge. Seriously, there’s no part of this trail that is not scenic, and even a few minutes before the parking lot, we were still stopping to take pictures of things. Except for Emily, who was badly in need of a washroom and sprinted the last 15 minutes of the trail to get to the outhouse.

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Sadly that was our last adventure in the North Cascades. I returned the following winter with Carolyn and Brandon to snow camp on Artist Point, but unfortunately with Covid, we haven’t been able to return. I was hoping to do a few hikes in the summer and fall again, but sadly I’ll just have to wait until next year (hopefully). Either way, if you’re from Washington, I’d definitely recommend hitting up the North Cascades, and if you’re Canadian, put in on your bucket list!

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