Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Day 7: Bye Bye Portland/Hello Walla Walla

This has been a really great day transitioning from Portland to Walla Walla and nearing the end of our sojourn to the Pacific Northwest. Anytime you can drive along the Columbia Gorge, there is no reason for complaint! We left Portland and passed by some nifty places we had visited in the past: Multnomah Falls, The Dalles, many dams along the Columbia, the turnoffs to Mount Hood and so many other locales that loom big in our memories. But today, we were about creating a new one at Hat Rock State Park.
It's hard to stop looking at the Columbia River Gorge but the other side of the road ain't so shabby either!
We travelled today channeling my mom and dad on a road trip. Stop at a picnic table and have a sammie!
Who knew the turkey sandwich maker at 7 Eleven was a chef?

Hat Rock Picnic Area #1
We travelled about 3 hours before coming to Hat Rock State Park. It was really hard to pick which road side attraction would get our attention today. There are really so many along the gorge. I really wanted to try out the Umatilla Wildlife Refuge, but with our experience on Sauvie Island and the known bird migration, we were wary that it would be inaccessible today. So we chose instead this basalt column featured by an Oregon State Park.
In all it's glory. It's not a brand new leopard skin pillbox hat, but we think its pretty special anyway!
Hat Rock is a geological formation that, along with another outcropping rock in the park called Boat Rock, are thought to be exposed remnants of a 12-million-year-old basalt flow. Floods from the Ice Age eventually left these bedrocks, as well as others along the Columbia River Gorge exposed at the surface of the Earth. It is 70 feet (21 meters) high. You could see Boat Rock nearby. And many great views of the Columbia River from the short hike around the geological feature. Hat Rock was named by a mapmaker who first documented it for it's obvious resemblance to a head covering! There are quite a few other basalt features in sight, some with houses built on top. The original park land was purchased from private owners and leased from the US Army Corps of Engineers at the time of McNary Dam construction from 1951 to 1953 with more acquisition in 1968. In fact, because of this history, there are houses built right up to the opposite side of the formation. It's definitely worth a stop to see it and we enjoyed the local wildlife as well: mallards, Canada geese and seagulls.  

And you get to see this too.
We made it to Walla Walla about an hour later and just before some of the downtown tasting rooms closed. Paul and I enjoyed the Waters/Tero/Flying Trout tasting room which seemed to be full of students from the enology college at Walla Walla State University. Then it was off to Charles Smith to sample K Vintners selections.

Yes, Paul Parris bought wine here.
We then proceeded to our accommodations for the night, the "cabin" at Sleight of  Hand winery. This is one of Paul's favorite wine makers and they have an on site cabin at a very reasonable price. And it's more like a 3 BR house.

Our home for two nights.

We were on the wrong day to sample the wares, but tomorrow will suffice.  After unloading all the stuff we have acquired or brought along, we made our way to dinner downtown at Whitehouse-Crawford. Formerly a planing sawmill from 1909, this is a locavores paradise. The building itself is about as impressive as the food and service which we highly recommend.
Great menu

Interior of the old sawmill with view of kitchen

Cocktails ala Walla Walla

Lamb ravioli. Not baaaaahd at all.

Heirloom tomato salad
It was an outstanding meal. I don't think you can go wrong, but we would HIGHLY recommend the local Blue Valley beef. This 6 oz steak was just right. And who doesn't like spuds?

Steak and taters ala magnificent. The red wine reduction was awesome.
So a great day transitioning from Oregon to Washington state. Great scenery, beautiful geology and yumilicious food. And the pleasure of a sunny day on the gorge with my hubby. Amazing all around!

Paul's Ponderings:  The fun continues....a great drive along the Columbia gorge (a stunning part of the USA), a few wines sampled in Walla Walla and a great dinner.   We had visited Garrison Creek winery about 18 months ago and bought some wine, but had cellared it at home.  So, we had some great 2010 wine from them at dinner (syrah).  As they say, you won't see this at home...they don't ship to Tennessee and it is pretty limited batch.  Walla Walla, for those from TN, is about like Oak Ridge without Knoxville anywhere close.   It is, in other words, Alabama, Washington....kind of an interesting contrast.   But, overall, another great day with great weather, so all good!

Day 6: Portland Trains, Trams, Trolleys, Trails ...and tacos and tasty Italian fare

A couple of days ago while we hiking up to the Council Crest area of Portland on the Marcum trails, we noticed signs for the Wildwood Trail and the 4T trail. 4T stands for train, trail, trolley and tram. We did a little additional research and decided that on our last day in Portland, we would 'take it easy' and do an "urban hike."  We were both surprised to find out that Washington Park has an extensive trail system and quite a few nice views and forest walks on this 4T trail.

Portland food trucks at the bottom of the tram

The view of Mt Hood from the top of the tram at Oregon Health and Healing Science Center...aka the hospital.

A wonderful view of Portland from the tram. No wonder they call it the city of bridges.

Paul admires the view from the tram.

The other car

Downtown vista from the tram.

A look down at the tram station with hundreds of bikes awaiting their owner's return.
 If you do this hike "correctly," you begin at the zoo by MAX and walk over to OHSU via the Marcum trail and through Council Crest  and then taking the tram DOWN. One advantage of this approach is the ride down is free and it costs $4.50 to ride up it. We, of course, did not follow directions, having already walked a good distance on the Marcum and over to the Zoo a few days earlier! But it worked out just fine.

Beautiful and fragrant lavender in some person's yard 

A birch bark cherry tree. 

I think if I could subtitle this trip it would be Paul looking small amongst big trees. These were not only gorgeous, it literally smelled like cotton candy walking through them. Go figure.

A good map of the many, many hiking options in Washington Park
 The walk was lovely, pretty low key and took us through neighborhoods, forest trails, parks and city scapes. We would highly recommend the 4T hike to anyone. If you are not a big time walker, you can always substitute a train or trolley for the trails.

We do want to give a shout out to one of our very favorite restaurants where we had "brunch" today. Santeria on the corner of Broadway and Ankeny pretty much never fails to deliver an unbelievable and pretty cheap meal. Don't be off put that it is located on the side and connects to Mary's striptease parlor. You cannot see or hear the goings on there--although Paul conveniently had to go to the restroom by passing through the club :) It's open till 2 am and also has breakfast all day.

Paul had a chicken enchilada and I had WHEN PIGS FLY. Three different and tasty pork tacos.  Even the rice and beans are amazingly delectable. 

By 1pm when we ate our first meal of the day, these chips and house made salsa looked like a godsend.

Even Paul agrees that Santeria makes Chipotle look like Taco Bell.

It's cool that the bus stop is etched but the shadows it casts behind is even better.

A not unusual utilization of "Parris time" at bus stops. 
 Once we completed this great hike and public transportation extravaganza, we had covered a lot of Portland and many great views and neighborhoods. From there, Paul was anxious to try out some additional Patricia Green wines. We heard from our waiter last night that Oregon Wines on Broadway not only stocked a good number of them, but had a specialty pinot noir called Broadway that they sold ONLY to that store. So off we went to find the holy wine grail.

Oregon Wines on Broadway sells wine, ships it and also gives you chance to sample. You can buy a whole glass or a taste (usually $2-$3) of a variety of Oregon wines.

A happy man who found his Patricia Green wines at Oregon Wines. He almost smiled. It was that good.

Paul went all in and tried the Patricia Green Broadway, sold ONLY in this store. I tried the three pinot sampler. All different. All good.
For dinner tonight, we decided to go to a nearby restaurant that got rave reviews, including in the New York Times, Ava Gene. This is Italian from the appetizer to the dessert. We had lovely cocktails. Paul's was a Blue and Green Gin and Tonic with blue green algae from Klamath Lake. Not something we often see in downtown Knoxvegas! We had Italian ham and a really great ash-covered cheese out of Petaluma, California as our "warm up." The salads were weird but yummy. Ours was radishes, goat cheese, hazelnuts and grapes but they had many strange bedfellows in the greens and veggie sector. Our primi course was a simple but tasty house made spaghetti with tomatoes and basil and the secundi was a pork in peppers, including pepperoncini. Spicy but really great. We had to call the wine steward over to help us with the extensive Italian wine list and ended up with an amazing 1998 vintage. At the end, after splitting all these courses, amazingly we still had a little room for the house made sorbetto. Thank heaven we walked 10 miles today!

This has been a really good trip to Portland sampling a lot of great outdoor activities, fine dining opportunities, some culture, some increased familiarity with the neighborhoods and all that topped off with some entirely tolerable weather. It will be hard to say goodbye to our adopted city in the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately we can "wean ourselves" a bit with an exit point of Walla Walla--a town so nice, they named it twice!
Ava Gene on Division and 33rd street

Inside view with full on perusal of the kitchen

Paul's Ponderings:  We've been very lucky on weather this week and today was no exception....beautiful blue sky and very temperate.   After a bit of a slow start to the day, we headed to Santaria, which used to be open until 4 am downtown and now appears to have "reduced" its hours to be open until 2 am.   It's very good and cheap Mexican food is the bottom line.   I have an indelible memory of a previous visit to Portland where we went to see a show by the New Zealand band "The Clean" on the east side of the river and ended up walking back to downtown via some very odd route very late (no buses or trains by that time).   We were starved and staying at the Vintage Plaza on Broadway and I recalled Santaria was open late.   We went in there at 2 in the morning or so to have a meal and it was packed with people!   They do have Mexican breakfast foods all the time, so we had eggs and salsa.    If you are in Portland and like Mexican food, it's a great choice.

We had a bit of an urban hike as well....Portland is full of greenways and parks that are easily accessed from main roads or public transit, so we hiked from the zoo, down to Burnside, into town, the back up via the tram to OHSU and down.   We finished up on Broadway with some nice wine tasting.   

Tonight, it was dinner at Ava Gene's, a place that was new to us.   Once again, a great meal in Portland!    Tomorrow it's off to Walla Walla and a whole new scene....

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Portland Day 5: Sauvie Island, Savory Noble Rot Food and Sauve Sounds of Julia Holter

We woke up to a little bit of fog here in Portland. That's not too unusual, and by 10 AM it had burned off to one very sunny day. And you don't always get that. Despite it's reputation for being a rainy and wet town, we haven't often had to put up with all that much rain. When we do, it's usually a drizzle instead of an outright East Tennessee downpour.

This is the proprietor's home on SE Orange Avenue. She built the eco cottage in her backyard.

Just beyond her lovely garden is this very cute and stylish eco cottage. Perfect for two people! Notice the blue skies in Portland!
The owner of the guest cottage suggested a number of breakfast/brunch places to us. We chose Junior's Cafe. It is predominantly for vegetarians, but since I was one for 14 years, it bothered me none. The cafe is at 1742 SE 12th Avenue. Not only is the menu all about eggs and veggies (a great combo in my book), but the jams are homemade and the owner is so sweet and kind. We loved the jam, so she sent some home with us. Free.

Order whatever you want at Juniors. There are no bad choices

The Okie. Potatoes smothered in green chili and housemade salsa

Eggs with chorizo. The Miga
After such a filling breakfast and by design since we still had the rental car from the Three Capes tour, we decided to venture to the Northwest section of Portland and walk a bit at Sauvie Island. A couple of notes for anyone thinking they wish to follow suit.

1. You must get a parking pass. There are several locations but the easy one is the Cracker Barrel store right as you arrive. No hillbilly buddies, it's not a Cracker Barrel Tennessee style. It's just a convenience store without gasoline and only a port a john. But nonetheless, an easy access to the pass.

2. You can go to Sauvie Island by bus #16. We chose NOT to since it is about 6 to 7 miles to ANY hiking and about 12-15 miles to most of the hiking. So keep this in mind if you choose the bus as an alternative.

3. The Wildlife Area, our goal which has a lovely 7 mile loop hike is CLOSED for migrating waterfowl from October 1 to April 15. Not a widely publicized fact on their website. Fortunately, there are some other areas to hike, but we didn't find this out until we travelled the 15 miles to the trailhead, so be warned!

We ended up choosing the 7 mile out and back hike to the lighthouse which is NOT in the Wildlife Refuge section, if you ignore the fact that it starts at a nude beach.
The visitor center was unlocatable, the ladies in the store are almost unintelligible in English language skills and the wildlife refuge office is closed, so you are pretty much on your own "ciphering" the island and what is open for your footfalls. Eventually we were able to ascertain, through a good bit of driving over this largely agricultural and quite beautiful island, that the hike to the lighthouse was available. It is right out on the very tip of Sauvie Island and allows you a view of the smallest lighthouse in Portland. And some big ships going up the Columbia River channel.

A view up the channel back towards Portland

Lotsa mushrooms of various ilks along the way

The smallest lighthouse in Portland. We enjoyed a snack right here and watched passing ships.
We also discovered that if you see the name on a ship, you can use Google Chrome maritime traffic app to see who owns it, where it is registered, where it is and what is carrying, as well as the speed, last port of call and the intended destination.

This one was the Fuji Galaxy carrying chemicals
We weren't sure if it was a good or bad thing to let the public know about every ship, but it entertained us while we ate peanuts and watched waterfowl at the lighthouse.
Barge and tugboat
We also beaucoup fisherman out on the river in smaller boats during this salmon season. The walk combined the views of the river frequently, a few meadows and mostly the woods. We thought we might see deer or elk on this spit of land, but the only denizen besides people are pictured below. Oh, and a snake. It was a black racer so it got away before I could shoot it...with a camera.

Slugs creeping along

Woolly boogers
For those who do not like to hike, you can still have a nice visit to Sauvie Island. There are roads all over the place and you can visit a lavender farm, a pumpkin maze, a "naturalist beach," and plenty of farmland.
Pumpkins galore!

A view of Mt Hood on the way out on a clear day

A map for those who enjoy a beautiful drive +/- the hiking
We really enjoyed our day out in Sauvie Island, the hikes, the views. We made a pact to come back when the wildlife refuge is open and do that loop hike. And maybe even stay there. Several folks have rentals through airbnb.

From the island, it was back to the eco cottage to get ready for a night out in Portland. We had dinner at the wonderful restaurant Noble Rot. It is on the fourth floor on E Burnside and has a great look out onto the city. The food is always good, and with a name like noble rot, you might guess the wine is superb. We were surprised to find more wine by a new winery we have come to admire, Patricia Green Vineyards.
Interior of Noble Rot

Cocktails ala Noble Rot

They grew the ingredients to this salad on their roof!

Paul's beef and pepper pasta. I had cod (not pictured)
This place remains on our favorites list. The waitstaff were commendable as well.
Then we were off to see some live music at Bunk Bar Water. It's as you might gather on the waterfront just east of the Willamette River and basically in the neighborhood near us. 
Interior looking toward the small stage. The background depicts the movie Paris, Texas.
Lucky for us, tonight's artist was Julia Holter. She is a young classically trained musician out of Los Angeles. Her music is a little hard to classify, but many would call it a cross between avant-pop and experimental. She was quite talented and had Devin Hoff (who plays some with Nels Cline out of Wilco and has his own band--recently seen at Big Ears in Knoxville) on standup bass and a cellist and drummer who also provided ethereal type vocals. She has a new CD out if anyone is interested in this type of music. 
Here it is! Quite good.
After that it was midnight, so it officially ended the day. Good food, good scenery, good hiking, good music and GOOD night!

Paul's Ponderings:  Another fine day in Portland with quite a variety of activities.   The forest hike out to the lighthouse was fabulous and quite different from the hikes near Tillamook.   We've been to Noble Rot several times for dinner and it's always a pleasure.  Weirdly enough, we stayed in their old place as a condo a few years ago, with kitchen still intact.   Now they have a lovely roof top area with stunning views of downtown from across the river.   We finished it up with some live music on Water Street, an area which is a bit gritty but appears to be starting to gentrify with some restaurants and bars.   We've discovered these Patricia Green pinot noirs while up here and have found them to be quite excellent.   I've not seen them in Tennnessee, so we may find a couple to bring home.