Exploring Portland and the Pacific Northwest / by Shane Henderson

columbia river gorge

After our week in Jackson Hole, we headed to the Pacific Northwest for a long overdue visit to Portland, OR. Some good friends who have lived up there for years are frequently telling us how great it is and we decided it was high time to check it out and decide for ourselves. We only spent a few days there and saw a small portion of the city and the surrounding area, but from what we saw, we are inclined to agree with our friends - it seems like a pretty great place to be. We love how residential the city feels and how green it is, with a bunch of parks and huge, old growth trees. There are great food and great bars, cozy coffee shops on every corner, and cool independent movie theaters everywhere. If you hop in the car and drive off in any direction you quickly leave the city behind and wind up in some stunning landscapes.  Here's a quick recap of what we did during our week in Oregon. 

We stayed with friends in Southeast Portland, near Hawthorne Blvd and Mt. Tabor Park. We really loved that area of the city. The neighborhoods and houses were adorable and there were so many great places to eat within a ten-minute walk. We spent our days just walking around and exploring the area, popping into coffee shops along the way. Seriously, we have never seen so many coffee shops in a 2-mile radius. There is literally one or two on every block! It's hard to believe that they all can stay in business but our friends assure us that Portlanders really love their coffee. We also explored the Pearl District a little bit, which had some cool shops but felt more like any other city and not as unique to Portland. Here are a couple of things we loved in Portland.

-MAE!!!! By far the highlight of our trip, Mae is a Southern cooking supper club that is run by friends of friends, Chef Maya Lovelace and Zach Lefler. It is held twice-weekly in the backroom of the Old Salt Marketplace, an intimate setting that allows you to watch all the food being prepared just feet away. They served a 10-course family style meal of some of the most incredible Southern food we have ever had. Fried chicken, biscuits, hoppin' john, seasonal veggies galore... It was so good. If you have the chance, definitely go. Maya and Zach are amazing and you will not forget that meal anytime soon!
-Mt. Tabor Park and Laurelhurst Park were beautiful. We couldn't get enough of the huge trees.
-The fish-sauce wings at Pok Pok lived up to the hype. So good! We went at around 3pm on a weekday and there wasn't much of a wait.
-The made to order donuts and chai tea and Pip's were delicious. Much better than Voodoo donuts in our opinion.
-Powell's Books was crowded and overwhelming but was still phenomenal. Soooo many books. I think there were three or four long aisles just for cookbooks.
-We caught a movie at The Cinemagic Theater on Hawthorne. Tickets are just $5 all day Tuesday. There were a bunch of other really cool looking independent theaters in the area that we, unfortunately, did not get to check out.

latourell falls
multnomah falls

Columbia River Gorge
We were lucky enough to explore the Columbia River Gorge just a few days before the wildfires broke out. It is a gorgeous area and it is incredibly sad to think of the time it will take to recover from the damage being done. We drove out one afternoon and took the Historic Columbia River Hwy, stopping at all the waterfalls we passed. There were a lot. In just a few hours I think we saw 4 or 5 waterfalls. And we are not talking just a 10-foot trickle of a falls. These are jaw-dropping, five-hundred-foot tall torrents! Latourell was the first one we saw and probably our favorite. The geometric rock formations behind it were fascinating. The one falls we missed out on that we would have liked to have seen is Lower Oneonta Falls. Apparently, you have to trek through the waist-high creek to get there but you are rewarded with a beautiful moss-covered gorge and stunning waterfall at the end. 

ecola state park
cannon beach

Cannon Beach
We knew we couldn't be in Oregon for a week in August and not check out the coast so we took one day to explore the area around Cannon Beach. We hiked in Ecola State Park, had lunch in town, and then spent the afternoon and evening taking a million photos of Cannon Beach. Such a cool landscape! If we had more time we would have liked to check out Manzanita and Oswald West State Park as well but those will have to wait until next time.

All in all, it was a wonderful week in Oregon. It definitely had us thinking about coming back in the future, and maybe even living there someday (although our friends talking about the long, dreary winters gave us second thoughts). Until then, we will be dreaming of waterfalls and that fried chicken from Mae.

Until next time,
Shane & Anna