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! 

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.

Driving Through Oregon

We departed Seattle in the morning for our second destination, Portland! It’s only a 2.5 hour drive so we arrived just in time to head into the city centre to check out some food carts for lunch. There’s more than 700 international food carts located all over the city, so there was lots of selection to choose from. Gill, Mel, and Karen all had gourmet grilled cheese and had the BEST falafel I’ve ever had in my whole life (seriously, I’m still dreaming about it)!

Our first impression of Portland is that it is one of the most chill cities. It’s Beerfest this weekend and since Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any other city in the world, there were a lot of people visiting. But even though the city is flooded with tourists attending Beerfest, it still felt completely relaxed. It’s so easygoing that after spending the day there, Mel decided it was her favourite city she’d ever visited!

The first attraction we hit up was Powell’s Bookstore, which ended up being everyone’s favourite part of Portland. Powell’s is the largest new and second hand bookstore in the world, and as an avid reader it was a dream! The whole building is stacked to the ceiling with books and there’s several different rooms making up the bookstore – we spent an hour and a half wondering from the orange room to the rose room to the gold room. There were so many books that we all left with a full bag!

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After Powell’s we walked to Portland’s second largest attraction (or perhaps biggest attraction for some people), Voodoo Doughnuts! This famous doughnut shop had a lineup out the door to try some of the tastiest and most original doughnut creations. Between us we sampled the ‘Portland Cream’, ‘Maple Crueller’, ‘Dirt Doughnut’ (covered with crushed Oreos), and the ‘Miami Viceberry’! They did not disappoint and were easily the best doughnuts we’ve ever had!

We had a bit of trouble figuring out what the best Portland landmarks were, so we decided to take a walking your with a local in the late afternoon. It was a great decision and we learned so many interesting things about the city! Portland is known for being chill and for being weird. The official slogan of Portland is “keep Portland weird” and the more we learned about its eccentric past the more appropriate it seemed. Only 40% of people living in Portland actually grew up in Oregon. The rare individuals that actually grow up in Oregon are referred to as Unicorns because they’re almost like a mythical species. The downside to having so many people moving into the city though is that Portland currently has the second highest unemployment rate in the country (second only to Detroit). We found this easy to believe as we saw a lot of homeless people around and it explains the high number of food carts that have popped up in the city as many people are forced to start their own business in order to sustain their livelihoods (the number of carts increased from 70 to 700 in 2009).

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However, we also learned many wonderful things about how green and sustainable of a city Portland is. They’ve had a global warming city plan since 1992, they heavily promote biking, they founded the car sharing industry, and they currently divert 66% of their waste out of landfills with recycling and composting programs (Vancouver is at 58%). We also learned that Portland is home to a large number of haunted buildings, as well as the worlds largest and smallest city parks! Overall, it was an interesting and educational tour and we loved the opportunity to learn a little more about this unique city.

We’ve now departed Portland, but as we drove east across the mountains we discovered that the rest of Oregon is just as interesting and beautiful! We hit the long driving stretch of our trip as we made our way towards California and we had an incredibly scenic drive through Oregon. We drove through dense, old growth forest, past snow peaked mountains, across golden desert plains, and over ancient volcanic lava flats. We spent a whole day driving through Oregon, but we kept the trip interesting with a stop at the ‘Lava Lands Visitor Center’ to check out an old volcano and see the rock lava flows that still descend from the volcano. We drove to the top of the volcano, or ‘lava butte’ and I found it really interesting because you could see how the lava had wiped out every living thing and that the tree line quickly picked up again at the edge of the lava flow.

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We also stopped into Crater Lake National Park and enjoyed incredible views on the lake which now fills the crater of a gigantic ancient volcano. It’s the deepest lake in the United States – we hiked up to a tower called ‘The Watchman’ to get an even better view of the stunning mountain vista. Crater Lake is one of many mountains and the backdrop of the mountains surrounding Crater Lake were just as jaw dropping as the lake itself!

We’ll spend a night in Southern Oregon before crossing the border into California and making our way to South Lake Tahoe. Here’s Gill’s next video blog: