Brake for Nature

Portland and The Columbia River Gorge

After our adventures in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and my two-week elemental diet treatment, we spent a week near Portland, partly because my naturopathic doctor is located there, and partly because all those people who say Portland is an awesome city are right! Portland and the surrounding area has a lot more to offer than just naturopathic doctors, as we discovered when we visited for a few days back in December of 2015 for my first in-person appointment with my doctor. This time, it was a warm and sunny September, and we took advantage of the season by exploring the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge and nearby Mt. Hood. We also returned to a couple of our favorite restaurants from the last trip. We both prefer to spend our free time in the outdoors, but we are also both foodies, and we are willing to trek into the cities for good food! I did get to see my naturopathic doctor while we were there, but I’ll save that story for a post in the Natural Wellness section of our blog.

Finding a reasonably priced RV park in the Portland area that is not within the Portland International Airport flight path or surrounded by industry is a challenge. I personally spent so much time reading reviews and checking prices that I started to go cross-eyed! We even considered staying out on the coast and driving into Portland for the day of my appointment. In the end, we found the Crown Point RV Park in Corbett, Oregon, located quite close to the Crown Point Vista House overlook in the Columbia River Gorge. It was not listed on very many RV park websites, but I found it by typing “RV park” into Google Maps. Since we planned on spending some time exploring the Gorge, this park was in a convenient location. The reviews were good, and the price was decent. We had to take the long way there with the trailer, since the direct route from I-84 is steep, narrow, and windy. It’s a small park with mostly long-term residents, but the residents are tidy and friendly. The park manager greeted us with a warm smile, a small jar of homemade jam, and a keychain flashlight that has since come in handy. Corbett was a quiet, easy place to spend the night compared to busy Portland, and we liked the small size of the park. We both felt that we had found the prize location to park our home.

The Columbia River viewed from the Vista House, Corbett, Oregon

View from the Vista House

On our first afternoon, we headed east on the Historic Columbia River Highway from our RV park to check out the first few waterfalls of the Gorge. A 15-minute drive on this beautiful twisting highway with views of the Columbia River brought us to the trailhead for Bridal Veil Falls. The hike down to these falls is about one-third of a mile. A lovely bridge provides views of the creek framed by moss and fern-covered trees, and a short walk up the hill on the other side of the creek brings the double Bridal Veil Falls into view. After lingering on the viewing platform for a bit, we climbed down on the rocks below the platform to view the falls from the creek.

View of the creek downstream of Bridal Veil Falls where a bridge crosses the creek

Bridge on the trail to Bridal Veil Falls

View of Bridal Veil Falls from the viewing platform on the trail

Bridal Veil Falls from the viewing platform

View of Bridal Veil Falls from the creek at the bottom of the falls

Bridal Veil Falls viewed from the creek

On our return trip to camp, we stopped at the roadside Shepperd’s Dell Falls. Shepperd’s Dell is a narrow gorge with multiple levels of falls that are relatively difficult to view. Perhaps one of the more interesting features of Shepperd’s Dell is actually the walkway and stone wall built into the cliff that provides access to the falls. The moss-covered stone arches along the walkway give the impression that you are walking in an ancient city.

Arched wall along trail to Shepperd's Dell Falls

Arched wall along trail at Sheppard's Dell Falls

A couple of the levels of falls at Shepperd's Dell Falls

We made it to Latourell Falls just before sunset. These are the only falls we managed to see on our last Portland trip, and we arrived at nearly dusk the last time as well. This time, the falls were much more narrow, given the dry time of year, but these are still my favorite falls of the Gorge. The wall behind the falls is concave and composed of basalt in the shape of vertical columns, a distinctive rock formation. Bright yellow lichens grow on the upper levels of rock closest to the falls, and the water free-falls away from the wall and plunges into the pool far below the cliff’s edge…stunning!

Latourell Falls

Close-up of the bottom of Latourell Falls showing the vertical columns of basalt

Latourell Falls viewed from the trail bridge

On our next waterfall outing we took the Horsetail Falls hike. After admiring Horsetail Falls from the trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway, we climbed the switchbacks up the side of the Gorge and headed into the Horsetail Creek canyon. The trail took us under Upper Horsetail Falls, providing a lovely view of the plunge pool and the canyon where the creek disappears over the edge to the Horsetail Falls we had seen below. The trail followed the edge of the Gorge providing views of the Columbia River and then headed back into another canyon, this time to Oneonta Creek and Oneonta Falls. We enjoyed watching a large group of chatty black-capped and chestnut-backed chickadees, lingered for a while at the bridge near Oneonta Falls, and then decided to return the way we came. The trail does continue on and exits onto the Columbia River Highway, but rather than walking on the edge of the highway back to the trailhead, we chose to enjoy the trail for a second time from the opposite direction and retraced our steps.

View of Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

Horsetail Falls

View of Upper Horsetail Falls and plunge pool with the trail behind the falls

Upper Horsetail Falls

View from the trail under Upper Horsetail Falls

On the trail under Upper Horsetail Falls

View from down in the narrow canyon of Oneonta Creek looking up at the trail bridge

Trail bridge over Oneonta Creek

We finished our day with a stroll around Oregon’s tallest falls, Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is developed with a paved walkway and bridge between the upper and lower falls, as well as a lodge with a restaurant and gift shop, and the area is full of tourists. Nevertheless, the falls are magical and you can’t help but feel romance in the air here. We walked up to the point where we could feel the mist in our faces where the upper falls plunged into their pool, and then we headed back down the path to dinner. It was getting late, and even though we were skeptical about the food at a restaurant with such a prime location, we took a chance on the restaurant at the Multnomah Falls Lodge. We had been too busy to celebrate both of our birthdays this year, so we decided to celebrate life that night. Michael had the steak, and I had the salmon with a glass of Washington white wine. We even splurged and had a berry crisp (wheat-free) with almond crumble topping for dessert. We were pleasantly surprised. It was the perfect meal to complete the day.

Multnomah Falls, the double falls with the bridge in between

Multnomah Falls

On our last sunny day in Portland, we joined our friends Michael and Stephanie Tiffany from Ventura, on a drive up to Mt. Hood. They were in the area visiting with some friends in Vancouver after spending a few days with us in Trout Lake. We gave Blondie (our heavy duty truck) a rest that day and piled into our friends’ rented Mini Cooper and made the long and windy trek up to the timberline of Mt. Hood. After a quick lunch at the Timberline Lodge, we hiked along part of the Pacific Crest Trail, enjoying views of Mt. Hood’s peak, the alpine plant life and birds, and the valleys and mountain ranges below. After a leisurely hike, as the sun was setting, we descended the mountain and stopped at Mt. Hood Brewing Company for dinner. When was the last time you saw deviled eggs on a restaurant menu? Well, here they were superbly satisfying. I had steelhead trout for the first time, which is closer to salmon than freshwater trout, and it was cooked just right with a soft and flaky texture accompanied by a creamy lemon sauce. Delish!

View of the top of Mt. Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail

Mt. Hood from the Pacific Crest Trail

View of Timberline Lodge from the parking lot on Mt. Hood

Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood

Christina and Stephanie standing outside after dinner at Mt. Hood Brewing Company

Christina and Stephanie after dinner at Mt. Hood Brewing Company

Speaking of delicious food, while we were in the Portland area, we just had to return to two of our favorite restaurants from our last trip. We shared our favorite finds with our friends. First, we dined with our friends Michael and Stephanie, and their Vancouver friends Michael and Corrine at the Slide Inn. The Slide Inn combines delicious German and American food (think homemade sausages, schnitzel, and sauerkraut) with a comfortable and artistic atmosphere. Lucky for us, the chef (and owner) also caters to people with special diets. We sat around a long table in the front windows eating spatzle, pork wiener schnitzel, beef rouladen, Hungarian sausages, sauerkraut, and homemade ginger beer. It was the perfect combination of flavors and conversation with friends.

Clocks shaped like stars on the wall and dining table set at The Slide Inn

Dining room at the Slide Inn

At the dinner table with our friends at The Slide Inn

Dinner with friends at the Slide Inn (Left – Michael, Michael, and Stephanie; Right – Corrine, Christina, and Michael)

Hungarian sausages, potatoes, sauerkraut at The Slide Inn

Hungarian sausage plate at the Slide Inn

On our last day in Portland we met our friends in the hipster neighborhood of North Mississippi Avenue for some brunch at Gravy. Unfortunately we chose brunch on a Saturday, and we had to wait FOREVER to get a seat. It was also the first day of rain after a week of sun in Portland, so we stood under our umbrellas outside the restaurant watching the local styles walk by. When we finally got a seat, we were not disappointed with the food, but the next time we return to Portland, we will pick an off-peak time to dine at this restaurant. Most of us ordered the scrambles and omelets, which are huge and packed with quality ingredients. You can order potatoes, fruit, or even greens alongside your eggs. One of our friends had the sweet-potato-buckwheat pancakes with applesauce and sour cream – yum! I love a good breakfast out. We ate too much and still took leftovers home!

That afternoon we drove over the river to Vancouver to meet my SIBO buddy! Yes, I have a SIBO buddy. SIBO is for small intestine bacterial overgrowth, in case you missed our other posts. It’s a crummy health problem that causes all sorts of bizarre symptoms. I met Ines through the SIBO Discussion Group on Facebook. We were both attempting the elemental diet for the first time, and we were having a similar experience. We motivated each other to keep going, and we got through it together. Ever since then, we have stayed in touch by phone and Facebook, encouraging one another to stay positive and sharing what we learn about the illness. It was the first time I made a friend through Facebook, and since she lives in Vancouver, we decided to meet in-person for coffee. She brought along her husband as well, and we all hit it off and enjoyed chatting so much that we were eventually kicked out of the coffee shop by the sound of the vacuum around us. It was a treat to be able to meet in person, and I hope that we can do it again someday.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Portland. We could see ourselves living there but for the rainy weather. After two years in Santa Barbara and nine years in Ventura, it’s extremely difficult to live through so many days without sun. Perhaps we could live on a sunnier side of Oregon and travel to Portland on occasion. For now, we’ll take a mental note for the future and keep on traveling!

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