Day 21 (August 16, 2017 – Portland, Oregon): “Productive Long Travel Day”
It was 5:30am when I awoke to the alarm. As had been the case for the last few days, it had been another sluggish start to the morning. I think the lack of adequate sleep had been catching up to me. And in the case of today, that wasn’t good because there was a very long drive ahead of us from Boise all the way to Portland, which was a distance of over 400 miles!
On the bright side, we were supposed to be getting back an hour as we were crossing back into the pacific time zone from the mountain time zone.
During our time spent packing and getting ready, we managed to catch some pretty colors in the residual clouds at pre-dawn just before the sun came up. It seemed like we were getting the benefit of these things with our early starts throughout this trip.
It wouldn’t be until about 8:20am when I loaded up the car with our stuff. And about 15 minutes later, that was when Julie and Tahia got to the car and we were ready to go.
The drive out the I-184 connector and then west on the I-84 was about as uneventful as can be. There was quite a bit of volume on the freeways as we drove out of Boise and in the direction of Meridien and Nampa, but eventually the traffic started thinning out and we were on cruise control for much of the way.
It took a while before we saw the Walla Walla turnoff, which made me realize just how far we had driven the last time we made the out-and-back two-day trip from Boise to Palouse Falls and back in 2013!
Eventually, the I-84 followed what was the Columbia River after having followed the Snake River that defined the Idaho and Oregon border. The Columbia River started looking more like a lake the farther west we went though some of the river was dammed for hydro such as at John Day and at The Dalles.
It was the first time that we had driven this stretch in good weather as our memories of this part of the road had been gray and misty, especially during that trip where we had been rained on a fair bit on our initial trip up to Oregon back in late March 2009.
Along the way, Julie found a lunch spot worth checking out at Hood River. So we would eventually get to this place called the Farm Stand Market at 12:45pm. It was basically a deli inside a small market, but this place was all about being farm-to-table with lots of gluten free options.
We would ultimately have the Tonya (basically a turkey with avocado sandwich and other goodies) as well as the grass-fed Reuben sandwiches. We also tried their kombucha of coconut lime flavor since they had run out of mango and thus couldn’t do the first option which was the mango passion fruit flavor. Julie also got the superfood smoothie while also buying some kefir and plantain chips at the market.
By about 1:35pm, we were back in the car. It ended up being a pretty good lunch, and it was a good introduction to the health food scene that Julie had been looking forward to on this trip ever since the beginning of it.
Next, we got off the Ainsworth State Park exit 35 and drove west along the Old Columbia River Highway. I saw that the John B Yeon State Park lot next to the freeway appeared to be full. So I knew that getting to Horsetail Falls would probably also be full. The aim was to visit at least three of the roadside waterfalls on the Columbia River Gorge since it was already on the way to our accommodation at the Hyatt House in downtown Portland.
On this visit, we had used our points as well as our anniversary night. We paid for the third night since it wasn’t available on points. Still, it wasn’t a cheap accommodation, and we had to call to ensure that we would be staying in the same room with full kitchen even though we had three separate reservations.
As a result of calling ahead and getting this squared away, we were able to visit sights on the way to downtown Portland with piece of mind as we were given assurance over the phone that our requests were accommodated.
Anyways, it was about 2:10pm when we got to the roadside Horsetail Falls. As anticipated, the parking lot and all the pullouts nearby were full. After circling around a few times, someone finally left and we scored a shady spot. This was a welcome chance to get out of the car after being in it for nearly 6-7 hours.
The waterfall was against the sun, but the cliffs and vegetation were high enough that it was possible to use them to still photo against the waterfall for the most part. It was very popular because people could play in the water in the plunge pool on the side of the road. There were some people who managed to scramble closer to the basalt cliffs though not many as it was moist and slippery over there; not to mention steep.
By 2:25pm, we were back in the car. Tahia really enjoyed this one because she tried to balance herself on some of the rocks opposite the plunge pool.
At 2:35pm, we managed to score a pretty good parking spot before the crowded Multnomah Falls. From looking towards the I-84, there were definitely a handful of parking spaces out there as I’d imagine not many people realized that it was possible to visit this waterfall from a different exit dedicated to this falls as opposed to the Old Columbia River Highway that we were on. Regardless, we promptly headed to the falls and the crowds.
Julie and Tahia were busy checking out the falls the easy way then check out the gift shops and the exhibits. Meanwhile, I was determined to document the experience going up to the top of the falls. It turned out that it would be a mile going up some 11 switchbacks according to the signage. That meant it would be 2 miles round trip.
The crowds were thinning out the higher I went. And I was surprised that most of the way, the trail was paved. But it was also shady, which meant that I didn’t need my dysfunctional hat. That said, there were still lots of people on this path.
In one instance, there were people gathered near some black snake with patterns on it hiding in the vegetation. Some youngsters tried to move the bush to get a cleaner look at it, but someone else was discouraging it as he noted the snake probably didn’t want to be disturbed and could strike back. So it would be difficult to get a clean shot at it, but it was interesting nonetheless.
As I got up to about the 10th switchback out of 11 (according to the signs though some of the switchbacks didn’t seem to be counted), the trail actually started going down! In fact, it went down a handful of switchbacks before I finally saw a Multnomah Falls Overlook sign pointing to the right.
Along that final stretch, I saw access to Multnomah Creek where some people were using it as a water play area since the water was calm enough over there. When I got to the actual overlook itself, that was where I saw a smaller tier just upstream and the limited but butterflies-in-the-stomach-inducing view over the brink of the falls with the Benson Bridge and people down below as well as the car park looking tiny.
There were always people at this overlook so I had to wait my turn to get my shots.
Eventually, I’d get my fill and pretty much trail run on my way back to the trailhead and the crowds as I tried to capitalize on the momentum of the nearly all-downhill trail with the exception of the climb up the handful of switchbacks at the beginning of the return.
By 3:55pm, I was finally rejoining Julie and Tahia who were on their iPhones waiting for me. They didn’t realize that I had gone all the way to the top and that it was a fair bit of distance away as they had assumed it wouldn’t take that long.
Anyways, we next drove further west along the Old Columbia River Highway towards Latourell Falls. The drive to get there was a bit further than I had remembered, but eventually at 4:10pm, we got to the falls where it was fairly straightforward to score a shady spot.
Once we got out of the car, we saw that the lookout from near the sign and the road bridge was obstructed by foliage. So we went down onto the well-established trail and within a couple of minutes arrived at the base of the Latourell Falls, which was impressively tall and plunging.
The basalt formations at the base of the falls was also very interesting as it obviously hinted at the conditions that made this (and all the other waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge) possible.
When we got back to the car at 4:45pm, I saw that there were people who went briefly up the hill leading to the so-called Upper Latourell Falls. Well, I decided that before taking off, I would get up the ramp to check out that view, and when I did, that was when I got the familiar view that I knew I had back in 2009 that wasn’t at the base.
So with that, we headed out at 4:50pm.
Next, we drove further along the Old Columbia River Highway to the Vista House. With the good weather, we figured that this was a worthwhile stop that we couldn’t pass up. So at 5pm, we promptly got a shady spot away from where most of the cars were parked, then checked out the view from the balcony of the Vista House. However, the railings and light posts below kept this spot from being as good as it could have been. So we always had to zoom in and try to focus on some view that left much to be desired.
By 5:15pm, we were back in the car. Then, we promptly continued driving west on the Old Columbia River Highway before getting back onto the I-84. Then, we exited somewhere well before downtown Portland where the GPS said there were several minutes of added delay to the route due to traffic. So we took some side road that went around the north end of the airport, and then eventually arrived at this place called the Cultured Caveman in the suburb of Kenton at 5:55pm.
This place featured a pretty good menu of all paleo items. We wound up getting some pork carnitas, which were really good as well as the hearty shepperd’s pie. We also got some kombucha and chicken tenders for Tahia. Julie splurged with a couple purchases of some berry cobbler though I wasn’t nuts about the pot de creme, which was like chocolate pudding but too much chocolate and no contrast.
By 7:10pm, we were back in the car and headed to the Council Crest. We’d eventually get up to the park at 7:35pm where the shadows were already long. But the views seemed to be more blocked that we had recalled from our experience back in 2009. I guess the trees must have grown more than before.
Still, we could see Mt St Helens and Mt Adams though it appeared that Mt Rainier was blocked by some clouds. Meanwhile, Mt Hood could easily be seen in a different opening in the foliage. I’m sure a better view of that could be had at the Japanese Garden where Julie and Tahia could do that while I do the Eagle Creek and probably Tamanawas Falls Trail.
By 7:45pm, we were back in the car a little underwhelmed. I guess it wasn’t quite as good as we had remembered it.
Eventually by 8pm, we made it to the Hyatt House. It turned out that the valet parking was a bit steep at $37 overnight, but the valet person suggested there were parking further down the road at structures. I wound up taking the U-Park structure which was pay and display for $10 for 14 hours and $7.50 for 10 hours. I took the 14 hour option.
The one across the street was Douglas Parking, and it was $7 max overnight, but the hourly rates began at 4am and it was $4 each additional hour so the costs really added up!
Anyways, by 8:40pm, we were all settled in our room. Tahia and Julie went down to the pool so Tahia could finally get her swimming fix. Meanwhile, I was busy getting caught up on all the day’s events as it had been yet another long and event-filled day. We still had another couple more days in Portlandia before starting the long journey home and ending our epic 3.5-week Summer roadie…