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!

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